Welwyn Garden City football pitch project autopsy reveals ‘scandalous’ failings

PUBLISHED: 15:03 05 February 2014

Football pitches at King George V playing fields

Football pitches at King George V playing fields

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For 15 months taxpayers have waited to find out how £200,000 of their money was spent on doomed football pitches.

"It brings Finesse’s future into question. I think it is disgraceful, they are not doing a very good job."

Labour councillor Margaret Birleson

And now an autopsy into Welwyn Garden City’s failed King George V all-weather pitches project has revealed what went wrong.

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s sport contractor Finesse Leisure did not consult residents, meet with environmental health, inform councillors, or seek specialist knowledge before building them.

But the council is not blameless.

At no point did it formally scrutinise the proposals and the conversion plans for the existing tennis courts were never formally considered.

Chairman of Finesse Peter Cabon, Leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council John DeanChairman of Finesse Peter Cabon, Leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council John Dean

The borough was forced to seal the high-tech facility roughly one year after it opened due to noise complaints from neighbours.

It has been left to languish since November 2012.

The truth was laid bare in a report authored by the authority’s Social Overview and Scrutiny Sub-committee.

Labour councillor Margaret Birleson has lambasted Finesse, as the facility is in her Hollybush ward.

"Good god, what a bunch of incompetent idiots."

Lib Dem leader Cllr Tony Skottowe

She said: “It’s a fair report of what went wrong, but I think it is scandalous that this never went to consultation and councillors were never informed.

“As ward councillors it was the residents that brought it to our attention.

“It brings Finesse’s future into question. I think it is disgraceful they are not doing a very good job.”

Over three meetings councillors, senior Finesse staff and other interested parties gave evidence.

New 3G pitches at King George IV playing fields.New 3G pitches at King George IV playing fields.

But during the proceedings it emerged that a “large number” of responsible parties were no longer at the council or Finesse.

Councillors heard how as planning consent was not required for the installation of the pitches, only for the floodlights, the plans were not subject to scrutiny.

Residents revealed they only discovered the existing tennis courts were being converted “a few days before work begun”.

And now Finesse wants another £250,000 loan after the previous £200,000 advance to move the pitches to another location in the Welwyn Garden City park.

The leisure operator is repaying the initial loan.

Lib Dem leader Tony Skottowe was infuriated when the Welwyn Hatfield Times read him the report’s findings.

The WGC councillor said: “My reaction is ‘good god, what a bunch of incompetent idiots’.

“What on earth are we trusting them with five quid for, let alone £200,000 times two.”

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