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Forres Community Football Trust publishes independent feasibility report for 3G pitch in Forres

By Garry McCartney

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Trustees Dave McCartney, Robert Mackinnon, Tommy Smith, Alan Whiteside, David MacKintosh and James Anderson are members of the group proposing a 3G pitch for Forres. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Trustees Dave McCartney, Robert Mackinnon, Tommy Smith, Alan Whiteside, David MacKintosh and James Anderson are members of the group proposing a 3G pitch for Forres. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

A CHARITY formed to contribute to the realisation of an all-weather, floodlit playing surface in Forres has submitted a professional feasibility report to Moray Council.

Forres Community Football Trust (FCFT) funded Integratis Consulting's report which reviews and sets out the mental and physical health needs and benefits of an artificial playing field in the burgh - currently, Forres is the only town in Moray without one.

A FCFT spokesperson said: "We gratefully received funding from the Earnhill Trust allowing our group to commission Integratis Consulting- well respected in this sport specific field - to undertake a comprehensive feasibility study.

"The results reinforce what many of us, including Moray Council, are already aware of.

"The main considerations now are around a learning estate review; essentially whether there will be a new Forres Academy. Where and when will influence this project. It would be sensible and equitable for those making these decisions to ensure Forres does not remain a poor relation of Moray's other towns."

'Feasibility Study: Forres 3G Football Pitch' is a comprehensive document which makes a strong case for the development of an all-weather facility. The report highlights how a pitch would support the delivery of key local and national health and wellbeing targets. It would transform access to high-quality training,being available on week-days to Primary and Secondary schoolchildren and in theevenings and at weekends to ball-sport teams of all ages.

The report claims, for example, that an all-weather facility would make a tremendous difference to the training and development of more than 200 boys and girls currently playing organised football in the town. From October to April, many youngtsers are forced to travel to Elgin for regular evening training on a decent surface and under appropriate lighting.

Sam Janoucek (16),who played in Forres Area Soccer Sevens and has progressed through Forres Mechanics under-14s, 16s and 18s, is in no doubt about the benefits of an all-weather facility.

He said: “I think of the years of travel twice-a-week to train in places like Nairn, Elgin and Gordonstoun. What a waste of time and expense, not to mention the effects on the environment of all those cars making extra journeys. It’s maybe too late for me but the lads in the under-12s, 14s and 16s deserve better. At the very least, they deserve the same opportunities as all the other teams inMoray.”

The report identifies and reviews several community sites and recommends Applegrove Playing Field and Roysvale Park as the favoured options. Both are close to Forres Academy and two large primary schools.

Its proposals include a community group and/or Moray Council taking on the facility’s ongoing management - booking, payments and maintenance.

Such a facility in Forres was prioritised in the Council's 2007 Moray SportsPitch Strategy but remains the only one yet to be constructed. The local development plan also recommended a 3G pitch in a central location, oneintegrated with the local path network to encourage and enable active travel.

Outline capital costs show that a football and rugby-compliant pitch could be developed for around £688,000 and a smaller,covered multi-activity area would cost an additional £375,000. They also show that a 245m² changing pavilion could be developed at a cost of £690,000.

Moray Council has already allocated £700k towards the cost of the project within its capital plan and additional funding sources are being explored.

The FCFT spokesperson said:"Consultation opportunities will be an important part of shaping this asset moving forward. We reached out to stakeholders to create the report in the first instance and would envisage further opportunities for involvement and opinion.

"FCFT have worked hard for years now. We encourage people to think of the benefits that such a facility undoubtedly would bring to the community. Sport will utilise the facility, but it will also be an outdoor learning space that Forres Academy and the associated school group currently lacks."

The spokesperson believes the project will succeed if more people get involved and would love to hear from anyone via https://fcft.co.uk

FCFT's report is available at https://fcft.co.uk/feasibility-study-published/

Moray Council Sport and Culture service manager confirmed the local authority is working in collaboration with FCFT to progress the development of an all-weather playing surface for Forres.

She said: "It has been identified as both a community need and an infrastructure requirement within the Moray Local Development Plan 2020."

Moray Councillor George Alexander (Forres, Independent) believes provision is long overdue.

He said: "More than one generation of young people have now been deprived of a facility which other towns in Moray have enjoyed for years.

"Both the Scottish Government and the Moray Council should hang their heads in shame for such an inequity of provision.”

Cllr Claire Feaver (Forres, Conservative) wants the implications of having a synthetic pitch to be fully discussed.

She said: "There are significant environmental costs in terms of the loss of green space, the leaching of plastics into watercourses, and the importation of tonnes of concrete and synthetic materials.

"There are also important issues around the siting of the pitch and how that relates to changes in the school estate, and where new schools could be built."

She added: "I also have concerns about the possible visual impact of fencing, floodlights, etc on nearby residents or on valued areas of open green space. It’s very important that these matters are fully consulted on and the implications understood before a final decision is made.”

Cllr Lorna Creswell (Forres, Independent) also highlighted the town's need for a new school.

She said: "Recent bad weather has resulted in flooded areas around Applegrove and ingress of rainwater at Forres Academy. We need to ensure we have a secondary school with sports facilities that is fit for purpose."

Finally cllr Aaron McLean (Forres, SNP) thanked FCFT for the feasibility report.

He said: "Forres has needed these facilities for the last decade and we are now seeing other parts of Moray receive a replacement surface while we await our first.

"There is money set aside in the capital budget and I would hope there is clarity in the Learning Estate Review report in January."

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