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Falls Park 3G pitch used only once a day

NOBODY ABOUT: Campaigners who opposed the 3G pitches in the Falls Park believe they’ve been vindicated by the shock figures NOBODY ABOUT: Campaigners who opposed the 3G pitches in the Falls Park believe they’ve been vindicated by the shock figures
By Michael Jackson

A LOCAL campaign group has called for a review into the usage and management of 3G pitch in the Falls Park following revelations that it is only being used around once per day.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to Belfast City Council by the #LoveFallsPark group revealed that the pitch had a recorded usage time of just 10.3 per cent between June 2018 and May 2019. The facility, which opened on June 15 last year, had been used just 371 times during that period.

While Belfast City Council was unable to provide a breakdown of costs linked to the 3G pitch, the FOI revealed that the total revenue earned across all four of the pitches at the parks four was £18,258 against a Falls Park expenditure of £324,696 during the last financial year.

Commenting following the revelations, Flair Campbell from #LoveFallsPark, said: “The information uncovered by #LoveFallsPark through Freedom of Information raises serious questions for Belfast City Councillors to answer.

“When our campaign group addressed the Council’s Parks and Leisure Committee in October 2014, among the objections to the development of a 3G pitch in the Falls Park we raised, apart from the obvious environmental one, was that there had been no business case established. Our objections were dismissed and the pitch was installed at the cost of approximately £1.7 million, with a further budget of tens of thousands being set annually aside for its management and maintenance. These figures now confirm that our concerns were well founded.

“In recent years the number of 3G pitches in West Belfast has proliferated. Surely the fact that the Falls Park 3G pitch is only being used a tenth of the available time raises a serious question as to the need for further pitches, including the plans for one being pushed through by La Salle school against the wishes of the local community there.

“We are calling on Belfast City Council to place an immediate moratorium on the development of any further 3G pitches in West Belfast and commence a meaningful consultation with the whole community as to how existing open green spaces can best be protected and developed.

“We are also calling on Belfast City Council to immediately review the usage and management of the Falls Park 3G pitch, including its current prohibitive pricing schedule”

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: “Council consulted extensively in the development of its Pitches Strategy around how it continues to provide high quality pitches that can be accessed by everyone. This consultation included sports governing bodies, sporting clubs across the city, communities and Elected Members.”

The spokesperson continued: “Council continues to be extremely keen to hear the views of as wide a range of stakeholders as possible on how it positively develops, manages and operates open spaces across the city and would encourage responses to current consultation on the Belfast Open Spaces Strategy and Belfast Green and Blue Infrastructure Plan.”

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