LARNE Council has agreed to provide funding towards the upgrade of changing facilities at Greenland.
As previously reported in the Times, local men’s and ladies’ hockey clubs have been using the synthetic pitch at Larne High School for more than two seasons without access to toilets, showers or changing rooms.
The problem stemmed from an impasse between Larne Borough Council and the North Eastern Education Board, who share ownership of the pitch and were unable to come to an arrangement whereby the clubs and visiting teams could use changing facilities at the school. It is understood that if the facilities were opened, it is not presently feasible to block access to the rest of the school.
But an end to the clubs’ desperation may be in sight, as NEELB and the local authority have now agreed to work together to bring the existing accommodation at the school up to standard and make it fit for community use.
Minutes from the latest meeting of the development committee show that the Board has put forward a proposal that would see it undertake the design, procurement and management of the refurbishment work, with the council meeting the cost of the work itself.
The plans include two changing areas, separate unisex sanitary accommodation and a separate referee changing area, all in an area of 144 square metres.
Elected members have been provided with indicative costings for the various work prepared by NEELB, but this is subject to review and quantification by an independent quantity surveyor.
An alternative option put forward was to provide a pre-fabricated changing unit adjacent to Greenland Community Centre with a floor area of 53 square metres, which would comprise two changing areas with ancillary sanitary accommodation and a separate referee changing area.
In the end, council officers felt that upgrading the existing accommodation at Larne High School was the more attractive option, as it would “provide a greater usable area and would enjoy a standard of upkeep due to its integral place within the school estate”.
As such, members agreed to support the proposal, subject to an independently costed and verified schedule of work being provided.
However, Councillor Martin Wilson felt the local hockey clubs still required changing facilities in the interim period, and urged the council to look into the possible provision of temporary pods as a short-term measure. Director of development Linda McCullough confirmed that, in light of councillors’ decision to support an upgrade of facilities at Greenland, procurement of the temporary pods could now proceed.
The progress was welcomed by Larne Ladies’ Hockey Club secretary Helen Russell, who said: “It would be ideal to have self-contained shower, toilet and changing facilities that can be separated from the school.
“We are currently playing in the First Division, which is the second-highest league in Northern Ireland, and we have a great pitch at Greenland. But it is not very professional when we have to tell visiting clubs that they have to get changed in a small toilet at the community centre.
“We had to wait quite a while to get such a fantastic pitch, and it looks like we will have a bit longer to wait before we get proper changing facilities, but it will hopefully be worth it in the end.”