THERE has been an urgent call for an end to the ‘deadlock and delay’ over Portavogie’s long-awaited 3G pitch following the closure of the village’s football training pitch.

In a motion to the council’s Community and Wellbeing Committee, which oversees such facilities, alderman Robert Adair urged members to back his efforts to address the recent closure, carried out on health and safety grounds.

The DUP representative for the Ards peninsula also expressed fears that an EU ban on non-renewable plastics – used in 3G pitches – could present further delays in the creation of a village football pitch.

Council officials admitted it was not yet clear how the upcoming ban, coming into effect in 2031, would impact the borough’s 3G pitches.

Committee members expressed concern that it might mean the tearing up of local 3G pitches, as ‘shameful’ and ‘disgraceful’.

Introducing his motion last week, Mr Adair appealed for the support of the committee when he said the closure of the football training ground would have a ‘negative impact on local provision and sports development’.

He asked council officials to ‘provide bi-monthly reports on the development of the Portavogie 3G pitch project’ in a bid to break the persistent delay.

The alderman requested that the report highlight ‘options to provide temporary training facilities in the village in the short term and repairs to the pitch in the long term as a matter of urgency’.

He said householders in the village and surrounding areas who use the pitch pay the same rates as everyone else in the borough who enjoyed better, local football pitches and training facilities.

The DUP member said the issue had been on the council agenda for almost 12 years and had ‘seen little progress’. 

He reminded councillors that in March last year the council committee had backed the business case and it was ‘all systems go’, but since then it’s been ‘more deadlock and delay’. 

“I emailed the council planning office for an update and they said they have heard nothing from the council,” he said, noting the difficulties in the planning process posed by obstacles involving NI Water. 

The long-running campaign has faced numerous challenges over the years, with NI Water last year claiming that to provide a new pitch, costly infrastructural improvements would first have to be made, and the council would have to foot the bill. 

The council however, demanded that NI Water pay for it. A financial compromise was finally reached, paving the way for progress but according to Mr Adair, that progress has still yet to come to anything.

He also pointed out fears that the 3G pitch could be delayed further still, due to future European legislation outlawing non-sustainable rubber, which currently make up Northern Ireland’s 3G pitches. 

The European Union legislation comes into effect in 2031 and involves a comprehensive ban on the sale of ‘intentionally added microplastics’ including rubber granular infill in synthetic football pitches.

DUP councillor Nigel Edmund seconded the motion, stating he knew of ‘no other project that has taken so long’ in all his time at the council. 

He said children who played in the junior Portavogie league when calls for a better pitch first arose were now in the senior teams and ‘still nothing’. 

“They need a 3G pitch to play on,” he insisted. ‘I don’t believe they are going to pull up pitches’ at the likes of Londonderry Park in Newtownards, but stated ‘it would be a shame and disgrace’ if legislation required such drastic actions. 

SDLP member Joe Boyle agreed with the motion, stating ‘it’s nearly taken a shorter time to build a £30/£40m leisure centre, referring to Blair Mayne Leisure Complex in Newtownards, stating it was ‘really unbelievable’ that the issue has become so protracted. 

The committee supported Mr Adair’s motion which must now go before a meeting of the full council.