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My Formby with Barry Griffiths

Proposed £5m Sports Facility at Altcar Lane

As "Spokesman" on Sefton's Planning Committee, I was closely involved in the initial proposals to develop our Formby Football Club at Altcar into a "multi-user" facility fit for all ages, to complement a rapidly growing population. Accordingly, this meant attending football matches and frequently walking the site to get the "feel" of the area. The enthusiasm of children and parents alike was infectious!

Detailed site development plans were put together by the owners of the land which included road alterations and relocation of the Altcar "Tip" for example. During informal pre-meetings in the Clubhouse with a Sefton Council Officer, we were dismayed to note that the Council was "HOSTILE" - not only to the development plans but were also determined to SHUT DOWN FFC ITSELF in the short term. "Formby children who want to play football should travel down to the Litherland Sports Park" we were told.

Attendance figures secured at the time revealed that, on some days, more children turned up at FFC than at the £multi million Litherland facility, so popular was our local Club. On one day alone, eight documents were served on the Club demanding that, for example, the popular Café (which provided useful income) and signage were removed forthwith, and the ball retaining nets should be taken down. Not only that, but an environmental "expert" was employed to try and locate a rare Water Vole in the bank of a ditch close by! He failed to find one.

When the Club development proposals were heard at the formal Planning Process in Bootle Town Hall, HUNDREDS of Formby families turned up in cars or by train with kids still in their football kit - by far the biggest number of folks ever seen at a hearing in Bootle. Many could not get into the building and were left exasperated .outside.

Together with FFC, I presented a detailed case for the Application to be "approved" and noted the blank (Labour Party) faces along the desks opposite. An excellent presentation for "approval" was also made by the distinguished figure sat next to me. None other than Jamie Carragher who had, of course, received "THE FREEDOM OF THE BOROUGH" by popular acclaim. He was aware that Southport FC was "landlocked" and was desperate to find accommodation for their colts, somewhere where they could train and be groomed to move up into the first team. A joint venture with Formby FC was seen as the ideal solution. However, this fell on deaf ears and the ambitious development scheme for Altcar Road was rejected.

Burscough and Skelmersdale were, thankfully, very keen to offer facilities for Formby FC, a Club with a long and proud history, that was not welcome in Sefton, Formby FC eventually relocating to Burscough.

It is hoped that the Government Inspector will now reverse the decision not to include the Altcar site in his list of approvals. He will be sharply aware that 999 houses are planned in Formby over the next decade........

by Barry Griffiths.

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