A HUGE sporting development has been given the go ahead after councillors unanimously approved a planning application to transform an ageing site.
The ambitious vision for the Ruskin Drive sportsground in Dentons Green will aim to create a 21st century sports village for community clubs.
A masterplan includes a new third generation floodlit rugby league pitch, a football pitch with spectator stand, new pavilion with changing rooms, squash courts, renovated tennis courts.
A two-storey pavilion would be situated in the centre of the site and some distance from neighbouring buildings.
The application passed through the council’s planning committee without incident with Councillor Richard McCauley describing it as “fantastic for the town”.
John Waddelow, from St Helens Council’s planning department, told the committee that it represents a “significant re-investment in leisure facilities at the site”.
However, St Helens Council – whose officers are driving the plans – has so far been vague about how the multi-million pound development, likely to be the largest investment in community sport in decades, will be funded.
The Star understands a significant amount of funding comes from a compensatory package from Pilkington Ltd’s property arm selling off sports fields at City Road.
There is also expected to be private sector investment, with remainder coming from grants.
A council spokesman said: “Now planning permission is in place a range of detailed funding proposals can be progressed.
“We are also in talks with the National Governing bodies of several sporting organisations with a view to secure grants.”
A new road is also proposed from Rivington Road to the Ruskin site in Windle. Nearby Queens Park School will provide smaller football pitches.
Pilkington Recs ARLFC, who now play at Ruskin after moving out of their City Road home in 2011 ahead of the land being sold to property developers, would be given modernised facilities to use.
However, planning documents state the club has raised concerns that the council’s charges for renting the “compensatory” facilities at Ruskin are significantly higher than what they faced at privately owned City Road.
Ruskinvest Ltd will continue to run the private sports club, bar and function rooms, with the plans affecting the sports fields.
However, Mr Waddelow stressed: “It is important that they (the council and Ruskinvest) work together to provide a combined facility that works in the long run.”
Mr Waddelow stressed that the gates to the facility will be closed to prevent it being used as a ‘rat run’. Acoustic fencing will also be used to minimise any noise.
Four letters of objection and comment were submitted to the council with one claiming that netball should be catered for on site to ensure that it wasn’t male dominated.
Another said they were concerned about noise levels and the fact that they wouldn’t be able to park near their homes.