Keynsham sports charity issues statement in response to outcry from social media post

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‘We are looking forward to engaging with the local community’

A charity which runs sports pitches in Keynsham appears to have back-tracked slightly after a social media post asking people not to use its land outside organised activities was met with opposition.

Somerdale Pavilion Trust manages the fields behind the former Fry’s chocolate factory, which is now part of The Chocolate Quarter. The fields are used for a wide range of activites, including football, Parkrun and baseball.

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Last week, as the school summer holiday began, the trust posted a now-deleted message on Keynsham Community Group on Facebook which asked people to stay off the pitches outside organised activities.

It triggered upset from some people in the town who said the fields should be kept open for the public to use for free. Keynsham Town Councillor Dave Biddleston also started a petition in which he asked the trust ‘to grant children access to your fields for free play’.

Writing on the petition, signed by 106 people, Councillor Biddleston said he was ‘deeply concerned’ over the issue and presented a number of reasons why the fields should remain free, including increasing footfall to the area, improving public relations and encouraging fitness.

Bristol World contacted the Somerdale Pavilion Trust, which took over the day-to-day running of the fields and pavilion in 2019. Chairman Peter Rilett said the trust was always keen to listen to the views of the local community.

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He said: “Our sports pitches are used by more than 5,000 people annually and they are home to fifty local football teams, which include Junior boys and girls sections, along with senior women’s teams. Historically, all the sports pitches at the Somerdale Pavilion have been available for the sole use of the local teams that pay to play there, as well as for hosting competitions and private hire events.

“The Somerdale Pavilion Trust operates on a not-for-profit basis and in order to keep the Pavilion’s facilities open to its members and the people of Keynsham, it is reliant on generating income to meet the significant costs of preparing and maintaining its sports pitches.”

Somerdale Pavilion Trust has said it will talk to the local community after reminding people not to use the pitches outside organised activitiesSomerdale Pavilion Trust has said it will talk to the local community after reminding people not to use the pitches outside organised activities
Somerdale Pavilion Trust has said it will talk to the local community after reminding people not to use the pitches outside organised activities | Alex Ross

He added: “However, we are willing to explore the possibility of making an area of the Somerdale site available to the public, subject to consultation with local residents and mitigating factors, such as health and safety concerns. We are looking forward to engaging with the local community and will be providing updates on any reasonable changes that can be made in the near future.”

Somerdale Pavilion Trust was created by Bristol-based charity St Monica Trust, which runs The Chocolate Quarter Retirement Village. The pavilion features conference and meetings rooms, a sports bar and gym and fitness classes.

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