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Thetford hockey club turfed out by artificial pitch revamp

A thriving hockey club running for 40 years is to be turfed out from its home town prompting fears its junior team will be unable to survive.

A thriving hockey club running for 40 years is to be turfed out from its home town prompting fears its junior team will be unable to survive.

The concerns follow the approval of a revamp of Thetford’s artificial pitch at Breckland Leisure Centre, which is to be resurfaced and made into a football-only 3G pitch.

It means the club will have to travel 25 miles to Watton to play as the new surface will not be suitable for the sport due to the materials used.

Richard Smith, secretary of Thetford Town Hockey Club said: “It is really frustrating and we are particularly worried that our junior section of our club will be unlikely to survive if parents have to travel to Watton on a Sunday morning.

“When the issue was first raised three years ago we were told it would not be at the expense of hockey and that an alternative pitch would be found but this has not happened.

“The pitch in Watton is also in a poor condition and will only deteriorate further with three clubs training and playing on it.”

When the plans were first announced in 2019, players in the youth team pleaded with councillors to stop the move, arguing it would “jeopardise” the future of the squad.

Councillors approved the Football Association-funded bid this week but it will now be reviewed by the Planning Inspectorate after Sport England objected on the grounds it would prejudice the use of the playing field for footballers.

The decision was not taken lightly, with several members concerned about the effect it would have on the club.

Thetford councillor Chris Harvey said: “Why are we imposing this on one of our longstanding clubs. The fact is the club will no longer be able to play in this town because a sport with more money has overridden a minority sport.”

The revamp will allow for a higher competitive level of football to be played year-round.

It is hoped an alternative pitch can be found in the town in the future but currently there is not an available option.

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