ECCLESTON Parish Council will allow a junior football club to use its changing room facilities to store their equipment, giving hope to members who feared its future was in jeopardy.

Bleak Hill Rovers, who play at Ecclesfield playing fields, faced an uncertain future when they were told they could no longer use a private garage to house their nets, goalposts and footballs.

The club, which was founded in 1976, approached Eccleston Parish Council several months ago asking if they could place a storage container next to the changing facilities to allow the equipment to be stored and accessed easily by coaches of all 28 teams.

With the deadline of the end of June fast approaching, chairman Cyril Barratt was concerned that the 450 youngsters would no longer be able to play football if their equipment wasn’t stored on site.

Discussions surrounding a permanent storage facility have been ongoing over the past seven months with the Ecclesfield committee, St Helens Borough Council and Eccleston ward councillors but they have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A statement issued by Eccleston Parish Council said: “The relevant parties have been exploring all possible solutions to get the best outcome and the best value for money.

“As soon as the permanent solution has the relevant planning permission, we will update the club.

“The storage facility will remain the property of the provider – Ecclesfield committee - and not Bleak Hill Rovers, as they are the hirer of pitches only.”

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The parish council have offered a temporary solution to Bleak Hill Rovers, which would allow the club to use one side of the changing rooms, measuring 20ft by 12ft, for storage until plans for the permanent storage unit are approved.

Bleak Hill Rovers were also concerned that they will only be able to hire one pitch at Ecclesfield playing fields next season instead of their usual two, which they have done for several years, following a request from an adult team to use the site on a Saturday afternoon.

The parish council statement said: “Bleak Hill Rovers and any other teams must submit a new usage request for each forthcoming season.

“There is no guarantee that pitches hired one year will be available the following year as the Ecclesfield Committee are there to ensure the health and wellbeing of all residents not just a selective group.

“There is no separate lease agreement between Bleak Hill Rovers and Ecclesfield Committee.

“Bleak Hill Rovers simply hire the pitches on an annual basis, as do any user groups.”

Mr Barratt, chairman of Bleak Hill Rovers, said: “Everything that the parish council has said is factually correct but takes no account of the fact that we have been using pitches for 44 years.

“We are a big community group and we keep hundreds of youngsters off their computer games and get them active.

“The offer to use half of the changing rooms has various conditions and we would only have access on a Saturday or a Sunday.

“A lack of access during the off season means we wouldn’t have access until September and the area allocated to us would not accommodate all of our equipment – it completely fills a garage.”

Discussions are ongoing between the club and the parish council.