‘FB Fields has so much potential if something could be done with it’

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Kat Keelan, who lives near FB Fields and has three children, said she was frustrated by the lack of interest in supporting the wellbeing of young people in the area.

She criticised the quality of the facilities at the sports fields and said she believed more needed to be done to improve the amenities for children in what was a densely populated area.

St Clement Deputy Lindsay Ash has previously called for improved provisions in the parish. He said that the east of the Island had been ‘neglected’ when it came to sports venues.

Mrs Keelan said that access issues and the lack of quality amenities available was ‘not acceptable’.

‘St Clement is one of the most densely populated parishes in the Island and the area around FB Fields is surrounded by housing, much of which is social housing that is occupied by low-income families. We need to give kids in the area the best-possible facilities which are free to use and easy to access,’ she said. ‘However, we have nothing for them. There is no direct access from the surrounding estates onto the fields. The access points are all locked up and there is no cycle track or footpath which runs around the area. My daughter has mobility problems and we have had to teach her to walk ourselves. She needs regular exercise and so we often use FB Fields but I have had to ask for a key from the parish to unlock one of the gates as they are all locked.’

She added: ‘We should take a leaf out of Les Quennevais’ book. They have access from all the surrounding houses onto the cycle track and the Railway Walk nearby. There is such a positive vibe up there and people are always playing football, hockey, cricket or using the leisure centre and the community café.’

Earlier this year former Muratti footballer James Scott was in advanced stages of seeking planning permission to convert the disused netball courts beside the athletics track at FB Fields into two 3G five-a-side football pitches, having already agreed a nine-year lease with the landlord Jersey Property Holdings. However, JPH backed out in November after the ‘discovery’ of a neighbouring covenant which ministers said restricted the ability for the project to be approved.

Ministers said the proposals would be ‘difficult to achieve’, as the covenant included a right of refusal for neighbouring residents.

Mrs Keelan said that Mr Scott’s proposals were just what the area needed.

‘It is a brilliant idea and would encourage kids to go and play football regularly. Those netball courts are mouldy and never get used. The government talks about putting kids first but I don’t see how denying them new football facilities is supporting that,’ she said.

Last month the government released its Inspiring Active Places strategy which includes plans for a sport and wellbeing hub at Le Rocquier by 2025.

And from the government’s Fiscal Stimulus Fund, which was set up to support the Island’s recovery from Covid-19, £568,500 has been granted to the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department to demolish and replace the existing changing-room pavilion at FB Fields.

Jersey Spartans Athletics Club, which is based at the site, has also been given £580,000 to refurbish its clubhouse and build a 60-metre indoor athletics track.

Mrs Keelan welcomed the plans but has encouraged the government to think about improving existing facilities before promising new ones and has asked them to prioritise the community.

‘FB Fields is in a central location for the surrounding housing and has so much potential if something could be done with it,’ she said. ‘I would love to see a café built there to help provide a sense of community. We need permanent football facilities, free open basketball courts, a play area for children as well as a cycle path which allows access from the surrounding estates and some sort of fitness and wellbeing offering which would promote physical and mental health.’

She added: ‘The kids don’t just need clubs, they need activities which are free and available all the time. We need to put them first and ask them what they want. We could do a consultation with local schools and ask kids to design their ideal changes to FB Fields.’

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