A COUNCIL report into the transfer of land from Torre Valley North to the adjacent school has been branded a 'whitewash' by a Torbay sports club – who claim the latest change threatens the development of young athletes.
Greg Fine, chairman of Torbay Athletic Club, said the report produced for last night's overview and scrutiny meeting – focusing on council procedural matters – failed to address the concerns of sports clubs using the ground.
Torre Valley Sports Group have been negotiating for a 40-year lease, but complained in June that a 16-metre strip of land had been torn up after Torbay Council approved a planning application by Cockington Primary School.
In a report produced for last night's meeting, the council admitted an error on the planning application, which in fact meant the school taking TEN times more land than originally stated.
The report, which was produced by Matt Redwood of Children's Services, also said information given to Sport England was 'ambiguous'.
Redwood added that 'a more structured and wider consultation/information process would have been beneficial and may have prevented some of the problems experienced over this proposal'.
But Fine has also claimed that the latest council plan is for a disused football pitch to be brought back into use at Torre Valley North – which would sit directly upon the athletics track.
Fine was unimpressed by the report, and said: "I believe that whitewash would be a fair word – they make it sound like it is not going to affect the sports clubs.
"I took some more measurements, and the [football] pitch would be right across the track and the cricket boundary, and almost on to the cricket square.
"Torre Valley North is the only flat ground available in the Bay suitable for a 400m track which we have campaigned for many years.
"The grass track at TVN is all we have to train on – the plan to build a football pitch which would go right across the track is not acceptable.
"While our senior members can run on the road, our junior members have to train on the track in the summer – for both safety and in what's best for their development.
"We have to try and maintain a good surface at TVN for our young athletes."
Fine claimed he first became aware of the plan to reinstate the football pitch at a meeting three weeks ago, and said there had been no consultation with Torbay Athletic Club over the issue. He added: "It was a surprise to us that there was going to be a pitch there. At no time have we been consulted – again – and there's been a complete lack of consultation whatsoever.
"I can't think why they want to reinstate it after all this time, and without even asking us. "It's a joke, the whole thing.
"We're an athletics club, but this is the only place we have to train without running on the roads.
"The surface that we would be running on would very poor so there's a good possibility that we would lose any good runners we have.
"The pitch will go right across the running track, and if they are playing football on it through the winter, at the beginning of the track season it used to be hard mud with a bit of grass seed on top.
"By the end of the summer it was nice grass – but then it would be time for the football to start again and the whole thing would be repeated.
"Their only saving grace could be that they have said they could stop [the football pitch] being used from February, to give it time to be brought back up to standard.
"But if Torre Valley Sports Group take on the lease they are going to have to spend the money every year to bring it back to up to standard."
Torre Valley Sports Group said they had also been informed about the plan to reinstate the football pitch on the site, and said the whole episode had been 'badly handled'.
TVSG spokesman Mark Faulkner said: "While we are hoping to sign a 40-year lease in the near future, we are still encountering issues at TVN, namely the reintroduction of a small football pitch adjacent to Cockington School.
"We are doing our utmost to assist all the current tenants but Chelston Cricket Club, Torquay Athletic Rugby Club and Torbay Athletics Club have all been badly affected.
"Chelston CC have lost a section of their boundary, the rugby club is having to move the whole pitch and the athletics club are faced with a football pitch trampling over their 400m track.
"Sue Cheriton from Visitor Services is working really hard with us to reach a satisfactory outcome that will benefit all the clubs.
"We still feel that the whole episode has been badly handled but we are still moving forward and hopefully in years to come the whole community will benefit."