£650,000 grant for Estover but will the strings attached to the offer be too much for the people of March?

Steve Barclay MP with letter from FA regarding Estover Playing Field

Steve Barclay MP with letter from FA regarding Estover Playing Field - Credit: Archant

News that the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund has awarded a £650,000 grant to help with a sports facility at Estover will receive only a cautious welcome by the committee set up in March to deliver it.

Estover playing field

Estover playing field - Credit: Archant

MP Steve Barclay revealed tonight that core funders – who include the Premier League, the Government and the FA- has offered the cash towards a 106m x 70m floodlit 3G, artificial grass pitch (AGP) and pavilion.

“I am delighted to have received written confirmation that Estover Park has been granted £650,000 for a new 3G pitch and floodlights from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund,” said Mr Barclay.

“This supports my on-going work to secure more funding for sport across the constituency.”

However the award, as I understand it, comes with multiple conditions not least the need for March Town Council – who are co-ordinating the project – to come up with the remainder.

Estover playing field

Estover playing field - Credit: Archant

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“You could hang yourself with the conditions attached to the offer,” was the view of one of those connected to the committee working behind the scenes in March to deliver the Estover project.

And with the additional funding required estimated to be anywhere up to a further £700,000, the grant offer remains only part of a highly complex fund raising operation.

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Councillor Kit Owen is chairman of the delivery committee for Estover but is currently out of the country and could not be reached for a comment.

However I understand he has been involved in a series of meetings right through to Christmas during which FA expectations of what is being offered by way of grants has repeatedly failed to match the reality of what a small Fenland town might be able to raise in matched support.

Estover playing field

Estover playing field - Credit: Archant

On top of this would come under writing of running costs if, as seems probable, the new Estover enterprise would struggle to even break even in its formative years.

Supporters have included Cambridgeshire County Council, who gave a 99 year lease on Estover playing field to the town at a peppercorn £1 a year rent, March Town Council who are considering up to £300,000, and Fenland Council has £100,000 earmarked to help.

But this could still leave a considerable shortfall if the town is forced to go ahead with the original design and aspirations that, through talks with local football clubs and other groups, have been re-worked to provide more appropriate and more modest proposals.

Those entrusted with the Estover delivery project have called a special meeting for later this month to consider the £650,000 grant offer and evaluate it within the context of what additional commitments it might bring.

One committee member told me last year the general view was that the pavilion was “way over the top” for what is needed.

Whatever is agreed I am assured that Estover will be home, and soon, to at the very least a multi use games area and some form of pavilion.

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