MULTI-MILLION sports facilities for Skelmanthorpe are on the way – after a 12-year battle.
The news came after a key piece of land was released by Kirklees Council, who finally settled a long-running dispute with a local businessman..
Councillors have agreed to lease land to Parkgate Sports and Community Trust enabling it to start work on its £3m plans for sports and community facilities.
Now trust officials are hopeful that building work can start within months.
The project has been held up for more than a decade by complicated land ownership issues.
The land off Station Road was earmarked for housing and for community use and was sold to businessman Brian Dunford, of Woolley Commercial Properties, on a “gentleman’s agreement” that he would level some of the land for pitches and construct the shell of a community centre.
He sold a large chunk of the land for more than £1m to Jones Homes for 90 houses, and then built six industrial units on another section of the site.
Over the years there have been many public and private protests over the deals but now Kirklees Council has come to an arrangement with Mr Dunford.
He has signed over rights to a 55-metre long strip of land which gives vital access to the 21-acre former pit site.
The former coal washing site by Station Road is now set to be revamped with sports and recreational facilities.
The organisers are now seeking £1.8m funding for phase one of the project.
The money is set to be raised through grants and is not coming from Kirklees Council.
Trust chairman Christopher Ward said he hoped they would be able to begin construction within 12 months.
He said: “I started this when I was 59 and I’m now 71.
“At long, long last we’re getting somewhere and it’s very exciting.
“It’s something that the Denby Dale area has badly needed for a long time.
“The Emley Moor rugby club and Skelmanthorpe football teams, including the junior club which has 16 teams, are desperate for facilities.
“Initially there’s going to be a club house offering changing facilities for the three sports pitches.
“There’s also going to be a separate environmental centre building which will be run by local schools.”
He added: “I’m delighted that a settlement has finally been reached.
“I and others on the trust kept battling on this issue. We didn’t want to lose something so vital for the community.”
The facilities will also include graded orienteering courses, cycle courses and young people will be involved in the planning and design of walk, cycle and bridleways and new hedgerows.
Organisers also plan to import and encourage a new wildlife population.
Mr Ward added: “The trust is very grateful to all the Denby Dale councillors for their and the Denby Dale Area Committee’s support and help, and in particular for the unstinting support of Clr Jim Dodds, who has supported us all the way to this point of the project’s development.”