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THE children of Portavogie and the wider Ards peninsula have been ‘disenfranchised’ and ‘failed’ by adults it has been claimed.

The comments were made on Tuesday evening after Ards and North Down Council closed the training area of Portavogie football pitch because of health and safety concerns. 

For the last decade the football clubs in Portavogie have campaigned for a 3G pitch to bring sports facilities in the Ards peninsula into the 21st century. However, their efforts have been met with ‘one saga after another’.

John Bailie, chair of Portavogie Youth Football Club, explained as part of the club’s risk assessment they flagged up a few issues around the site and whether the training area was fit for purpose.

“The council’s response was that they will close it until they are able to look at it,” he said, adding that this highlights the need for a 3G pitch even further.

“At this moment in time we have a MUGA – multi use games area – to train 14 junior as well as two senior teams which is impossible,” he said. “We are trying our best to develop kids yet we are in the same place as we were 18 months ago – we are just failing the kids”.

Mr Bailie said every winter the club queried the surface and the lighting, but still had no progress on the 3G pitch. “The council are not engaging with the club as a major stakeholders,” he said, adding the matter didn’t seem to be important to the council. 

Peninsula councillor Robert Adair is ‘disappointed but not surprised’ that the training area of Portavogie football pitch has been closed because of health and safety concerns.

“The football pitch in Portavogie has come to the end of its life,” Mr Adair commented. “Lack of maintenance by the council over the years has contributed to this”. 

He said the children had nowhere to train locally and other facilities in the peninsula were not an option because they were used by other sports clubs. There was, Mr Adair said, a MUGA in Portavogie but the lights hadn’t been working there for weeks.

Two hundred and fifty children have been disenfranchised,” he added.

Mr Adair said the lights have not been working last winter. “Every time they come out and fix them they go off again – either the lights are not working or they haven’t fixed them properly,” he said. “It is totally unacceptable in these dark evenings – the council can’t do something as simple as fix a light bulb”.

The DUP councillor said the fight for a 3G pitch in Portavogie has been going on for 10 years. “It has been one saga after another,” he said.

He has contacted the council’s chief executive and the director responsible for the matter to ask if it could be placed on the agenda of last night’s council committee meeting.

“There can be no more dithering or delay on this project – we need to see action and a move forward as soon as possible”, Mr Adair said. “It is only a matter of time before the football pitch itself is closed and then there will be no facilities in Portavogie”.

A council spokesman thanked the club for bringing their concerns about the training area to their attention.

We will work with the club to ensure that they are addressed and in the intervening period, we will try to facilitate the club’s training requirements across the Council’s other facilities,” he said.

“The football pitch remains unaffected.”

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