Club chairman backs plans
Wednesday 1st July 2020
The chairman of a Merseyside cricket club has come out in favour of controversial plans to build an Aldi on the club's former pitch.
Peter White, who has been chairman of Huyton Cricket Club for a decade, said the club's old ground on Huyton Lane was no longer suitable for sport and a new supermarket would bring jobs to the area.
He said: "I see a lot of people on social media saying we don't need another one, but these supermarkets are built in the middle of six housing estates with a lot of poverty.
"Supermarkets are needed that people can afford to shop in, and we need the jobs."
A petition against the proposed Aldi has already garnered 750 signatures, with residents fearing increased congestion on Huyton Lane and saying the land should be kept as green space.
But Mr White said efforts to keep the ground used for sport had failed and the pavilion had become a magnet for vandals.
He said: "It's being broken into every week by kids, all the drains have collapsed, itís too much to handle. It will end up getting burned down."
Mr White, 36, grew up playing cricket for Huyton but the club folded around the same time he became chairman.
By that point, drainage problems had made the pitch unsuitable for cricket and the club had had to drop out of the Liverpool Competition.
Mr White then brought children's football teams in to keep the ground in use, but he said the pitches were too waterlogged for them as well.
He said: "The pitch was unplayable and they left."
As well as drainage problems, the site has a problem with Japanese knotweed and the pavilion contains asbestos, both of which will need to be removed by specialists.
The pavilion, originally built in 1875, was one of the oldest in England but after renovations and extensions little if any of the original structure remains and the building is in a state of disrepair with rotten floors and a collapsed ceiling.
Mr White said: "Iíve got this place close to heart. Iíve tried and tried and tried, I've put thousands of pounds of my own money in but nobodyís interested."
He added that the campaign to save the cricket club was "10 years too late", saying: "When we needed the help, no one was there to be seen."
Since the plans to demolish the pavilion were announced, Mr White has saved the team photographs that were stored there, which date back to 1905, and said he would donate the club's war memorial to the local Royal British Legion.
As part of Aldi's proposals, the supermarket chain has said it will contribute £800,000 to improving facilities at Jubilee Park, which Mr White has welcomed as a way of providing better sports facilities for Knowsley.
However, opponents of the plans have criticised the move, saying this will mean Roby benefits from Huyton's loss of green space.
They have also criticised the speed with which Aldi submitted its planning application after a public consultation closed on Monday.
A spokesperson for Aldi said: "Our application is in the process of being submitted. We have been working with Knowsley Council for several years to deliver a robust application for this site which can be validated quickly. There is still some further technical information that will be added to the application in the coming days, including more details about the results of the consultation.
"Aldi prides itself on its pre-application consultation process. With all new stores, we are committed to engaging with local residents about our ambitions and listen to their views.
"We are overwhelmed with the level of response we have received to our consultation and we would like to thank everyone who has taken part. We will continue to review and respond to the feedback where possible.
"This feedback will be used to improve the proposals in collaboration with planning officers over the coming months before the final plans are considered by Knowsley Council's Planning Committee."
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