Joy at pitch battle victory

Arniston Rangers Youth Football Club youngsters and coaches celebrate at their Gore Glen pitch.
Arniston Rangers Youth Football Club youngsters and coaches celebrate at their Gore Glen pitch.

Arniston Rangers Youth Football Club is delighted that the council has reversed its decision to close two of its much-needed pitches.

Councillors last week removed plans to close the pitches at Gore Glen and Birkenside from this year’s budget, which was agreed upon only last month, admitting that they had missed these cuts in officers’ proposals.

The £6-8000 maintenance costs for these pitches will be covered by the removal of £6-7000 from the budget to maintain an astro pitch at Arniston Park which the club has taken on the running of from the council.

The Gorebridge club was horrified that it was to lose these pitches, as it had hoped to acquire more football pitches to cope with demand in the fast-growing town.

Arniston Rangers Youth Football Club chairman Andrew Cranston said: “It’s a huge relief. I found it a bit of a shock to begin with when they decided to close them.

“We go involved with the PTAs at the primary schools in Gorebridge, as well as Gorebridge Cares, and drafted a letter to the councillors.

“We also sent our business plan based on our projected figures for how many kids will come through our club and I think that swung it.

“We have 300 kids and that will soon be up to 400. They are building new houses here all the time. So we were bewildered when the decision was made to close these pitches.

“I’m glad we got the outcome we wanted. If they had kept their original decision then there would have been a bigger fight from us. We wouldn’t have let it happen.”

Andrew emphasised how important these pitches are to the club. He said: “A few years ago we only had one 11-a-side team. Now we have got five teams, all demanding a pitch. There is no space. We actually need more pitches, with at least one all-weather pitch.

“Penicuik and Bonnyrigg have got 3G pitches. Gorebridge has got nothing. But it’s always been the same.

“If we could get one at Gore Glen that would be great as when it comes to the winter we are struggling to get games played or have training.

“As we get bigger we just want to have something decent for the area.”

Speaking at last week’s meeting councillors said they had missed officers’ proposals affecting these pitches as part of a £50,000 saving by closing a number of pitches across Midlothian when they accepted the budget. Councillors were happy to amend the decision last week and keep these pitches in the budget at no extra cost to the council.

Local councillor Jim Muirhead (Lab), who raised a motion to make this budget amendment, spoke highly of Arniston Rangers Youth Football Club and its planned expansion. He added: “It’s clearly a growing club providing an extremely valuable service to the community.”

Council leader Derek Milligan questioned why officers recommended the closure of these pitches and said all councillors should “hold our hands up for missing this”.

However, Councillor Diane Alexander (SNP) called for a full review of the other affected pitches in Midlothian, adding: “What about the pitches in other areas? Do children there not matter?”

Despite this suggestion, councillors unanimously approved the motion.