‘We have to make it succeed’ - directors aim high in bid to make Estover pavilion and playing fields the sporting hub for Fenland
- Credit: Archant
After securing the keys to the Estover pavilion and playing fields, directors running the site hope this will act as a hub that benefits both the sporting and wider community of March and Fenland.
Earlier this year, March Town FC earned the right to run Estover following a unanimous decision from March Town Council to take charge, and in turn came the formation of March Town FC Estover Community Interest Company (CIC).
The company is now headed by directors Alex Fisher, Gerry Roe, Rob Chapman and Lindsey Butt, after the previous company name, Estover Playing Field 2015 CIC, changed in June.
Having got the keys just before the coronavirus lockdown, work on the sports pitches and pavilion has been stalled, but with restrictions beginning to ease, it’s hoped progress can continue to be made.
“This is a place for the community and the town. We are committed to making it work and we need as many people in here as we can get,” Fisher said.
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“We want to work with people, we have got to make it work and we need that involvement from the community.”
Two years ago, work started on building a new pavilion, which directors also want to be used as a leisure venue, as well as the grass pitches.
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In May, £35,000 was awarded to enhance the facilities on Estover Road as part of Cambridgeshire County Council’s £5 million Communities Capital Fund, including a café and fencing, which the fencing is expected to be in place by the end of this month.
“We know what needs to be done with the pitches and we know it will take a lot of time,” Chapman said.
“There will always be something else to do, but we will keep pushing.”
It’s not just the fresh changing and meeting areas that aim to attract Fenland folk.
Talks of building a 3G all-weather pitch are ongoing, an idea that MP Steve Barclay had agreed a £650,000 grant for at one stage, plus some funding to improve the existing car park.
“It will become the place in Fenland to play football. All we need is the will of a few good people to make things work,” Roe, also secretary of March Town FC, said.
A main contingency fund is also planned, something that Fisher, who believes the town needs an all-weather pitch, said the company would dip into if necessary.
“The town desperately needs a 3G. It would provide good income,” he said. “There is so much maintenance to do on that 3G pitch, but we’ve got to make it happen.”
On the pitch, it’s uncertain when teams can return to action, but clubs have already been using Estover to their advantage for pre-season training.
March Academy FC are currently running sessions there, March Town Ladies also plan to do the same.
Alex, who helped launch March Town United Youth which caters for five to 18-year-olds following the merger with March Rangers Youth, is pleased with how the development is shaping, but knows what needs to happen for Estover to be a success.
“We are committed to making it work and we need as many people in here as we can get,” he said.
“We should all work together, that is our standing. We are going to need support and involvement, but we are confident in making it a success.”
It hasn’t been the easiest routes to this point for March Town FC, who won the keys to Estover ahead of March Academy FC who have played their junior and senior games there for the last five seasons.
However, while some did not take the decision lightly, March Town FC said they would allow other clubs and community groups to use the playing fields and pavilion once they see fit, something that Roe was quick to reassure on.
“Our presentation to March Town Council was deemed better for the community and not just one club,” he said.
“We want to make it a special place, and we want March Academy to be a part of that.”
Speaking in 2018 when work began on the playing fields, Cllr Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said that “a place the size of March not to have this extent of football pitches properly running with a decent pavilion is well overdue.”
With a multi-use games area in place, the pavilion needing the finishing touches and plans ready for the pitches, Estover is on its way to putting March on the map for providing a modern facility for all the community.
“We have got a beautiful building and it has got great potential,” Alex said.
“We have to make it succeed.”
In 2015 the Cambs Times ran a ‘Hands Off Estover’ campaign through late summer and into the autumn to keep Estover playing fields for public use – even holding its own public meeting in December, chaired by editor John Elworthy, to highlight the opposition.