Plans to upgrade the facilities at Congresbury Recreation Club, first revealed in November, are gathering momentum.
The new plan, called Project Construct, envisages the demolition and rebuilding of the existing Rec Club on the same footprint and a new separate changing room pavilion for the cricket and tennis clubs. The existing tennis clubhouse will be demolished (see site plan below).
“We are updating the village on the progress we have made. Support from the villagers of Congresbury is important,” said Congresbury Cricket Club president Les Owen who is leading Project Construct.
‘’We are shortly to begin a ‘pre-application’ consultation on the plans with North Somerset planners following which we will communicate with villagers again with the proposed buildings details. Our aim is to make a formal submission for planning approvals within the next few months. Alongside this we will start the fund-raising phase,” said Les.
Michael Greaves, chairman of the King George V Playing Fields Trust, said: “Replacing a dilapidated Rec Club and building a new changing room pavilion will not just benefit the cricket and tennis clubs but the whole village.
“The cricket ground and recreational playing fields have been a central part of village life since the 1930s. We want to make sure this continues to be so for generations to come.”
There will be a new changing rooms building for cricket and tennis with a tennis viewing area, and four multi-use changing rooms with shower and toilet facilities that will meet the needs of all sports and recreation users of the Fields
The plans also include a new Recreation Club building with separate sports and lounge bars. The social space will be considerably bigger than in the existing building through the release of the existing changing rooms and showers space.
It retains much of the existing kitchen appliances and cupboards – renewed at the end of 2020 – and will have a larger bar serving area.
The two separate social areas can be turned into a single function room for larger recreational, social or private functions greatly increasing the potential use of the new building
Project Construct is working on an estimated cost in the region of £600,000 – a figure that will be firmed up once the detailed plans have been finalised.
The project has already secured significant funding pledges while additional sources of funding and grants are being explored and discussions have started with potential grant funders such as the England Cricket Board (ECB) “I think it’s fair to say that we are starting on a firm financial footing,” said Les. The developer is the King George V Trustees which is a registered charity and donations will be eligible for Gift Aid and higher rate tax relief.
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The fields were gifted to the village in 1935 by Donald Harvey who bought them from the Walter brothers. The brothers sold the land on the condition that it would substantially benefit the playing of cricket and that the whole area would be used as a playing fields and recreation ground in perpetuity for the inhabitants of Congresbury. In turn, Donald Harvey gifted the land to the National Playing Fields Association (now called Fields in Trust) through the King George V Playing Fields Trust which is managed by the King George V Playing Fields Trustees. Each of the parish council, the cricket, football and tennis clubs, the Royal British Legion and St Andrews school may nominate a trustee and the Trustees have power to appoint additional trustees to assist them. The Trustees can delegate the day to day running and administration of the Fields to a committee, which is now the Congresbury Recreation Club.
The current Rec Club was built by the cricket club in 1963 with an anticipated 25-year lifespan. It is remarkable that it has survived more than twice as long as that, but it is hardly surprising that it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to repair and maintain. It is no longer fit for purpose.
Congresbury Recreation Club
In 1969, with the consent of the Trustees, the three main sporting bodies – cricket, football and tennis – formed Congresbury Sports Club and, shortly after, it became the Congresbury Recreation Club, benefitting from a bar licence secured by the cricket club as far back as 1953. Initially the bar was open only at weekends in the summer. In 1970 the bar was open every evening in the summer and manned by volunteers until 1974 when a decision was made to employ a bar steward on a part-time basis.
Today the Rec Club has 250 members, both sporting and social, up from 150 in 2017-18 and 160 in 2018-19. Chairman Andy Elvin said that this increase was almost certainly as a result of recent changes put in place to make the club more inclusive. Membership represents almost one in 10 of the adult population of Congresbury (based on the 2011 national census).
“Obviously Covid curtailed most of the activities last year but I am sure when we are back to normality we will see further growth in sports and social membership and additional usage by the community as a whole,” said Andy. “We are very excited by the plans for a new building”
The club has set itself an ambition of doubling membership over the next few years trying to reach between 15-20 per cent of the adult population in the village with increased use of the fields for sport and recreation by juniors
Congresbury Cricket Club
While cricket has been played in the village for more than 175 years, the club didn’t move to its present ground until the mid-1930s when the land was gifted. There is a clause in the Trust that, so long as there is a cricket club in Congresbury, the cricket area of the fields must always be kept as a cricket ground
The club has some 100 members including youngsters and, more recently, girl and women players. It has benefited from the national launch of All Stars cricket aimed at five to eight year olds, and Dynamos for the under-11s.
Women’s cricket is a priority for the ECB. A Congresbury CC women’s team started playing competitively in 2019. The focus on youth and diversity has helped boost membership at a time when many cricket clubs are suffering a decline in fortunes.
The club regularly hosts junior county matches but has had to turn down requests to host junior county girls’ matches because of the current inadequate changing facilities – a situation which gives an added imperative to Project Construct’s plans.
“New changing rooms are essential for us to meet the demands of the modern game, increase participation and attract the calibre of players we need,” said chairman Geoff Wilcock. ‘’Four flexible use changing rooms will enable us to grow our girls’ and women’s section and to increase the amount of girls’ and women’s cricket played through the ability to host away teams’’
The club has two senior sides: the 1st XI plays in the West of England Premier League and the 2nd XI in the Bristol & District league. It also has youth teams at most age levels and strong links with Somerset County Cricket Club with several Congresbury youngsters playing for the county.
During the summer months many children in the village participate in the various cricket activities with their parents spectating and using the Rec Club facilities. Sunny Friday evenings at the KGV fields have become a real focal point for recreation and social activity in Congresbury
Congresbury Tennis Club
Tennis club membership has grown from under 70 in 2018/19 to 114 in 2020 including 29 juniors. The Club has ambitious plans to build a fourth court within the next three years to meet the increasing demand.
The Club is this season increasing from two men’s league teams to four and from one to two ladies’ teams, as well as increasing the number of mixed teams and implementing an internal singles box league. It has also taken on two additional coaches over the last year.
“We want to increase junior coaching, offer cardio tennis and walking tennis for injured, less mobile and older players, and provide disabled access to the courts with the potential for wheelchair tennis,” said chairman JL Hagger who notes that a fourth court would allow a ‘pay-and-play’ scheme for those who don’t want to join the club but still play occasional tennis.
The club believes that the new more flexible changing rooms and a modern Rec Club with enlarged social facilities would allow it to recruit more players while raising additional funds through more social events.
Congresbury Football Club
The club has run three teams over the past five seasons and averages around 60 members each season. The 1st team plays in the Somerset County League and the reserves and 3rd team in the Weston & District League. Some 40 per cent of players live in the village with another 15-20 per cent having either grown up in Congresbury or having strong connections in the village, explained chairman Stu Smith.
A lack of volunteers means the club does not at present run junior teams. “If we were approached by interested parties, we would be keen to support re-establishing junior football,” says chairman Stu Smith. “The same would also stand with regard to Women’s or Veterans’ teams.”
The Football club is responsible for the upkeep of the Broadstones Park playing fields and associated buildings. The Rec Club is used as the clubhouse since alcohol cannot be sold at Broadstones. Visiting teams are invited back to the Rec for refreshment after matches.
“Wider community participation in the Rec Club can only bring the football club to more people’s attention and would hopefully lead to more support in terms of volunteers, spectators or players and may even help in the formation of new teams,” said Stu.