A public space in Dartford could be fenced off from the public as a football club hopes to increase its leaseholds and take over the grounds.

Fleetdown United Football Club has leased the land at Heath Lane for many years, which is used as an all-weather football pitch, as well as a public space for families, children and dogwalkers.

The football club has proposed to extend its lease with the Council – which includes redeveloping the current pitch and building a mini stadium around the main pitch.

The ground development proposal also involves an incursion fence to be built across the full length of the grounds and sealing it off to the public.

News Shopper:

According to the wider development proposal found on the Fleetdown Football Club website, plans also include removing the current 3G pitch and building an extended 3G pitch – suitable for all junior football teams and building floodlights, pitch barriers and dug outs around the main pitch.

The Council has not received any formal planning application for the wider developments - including the proposal to build a mini stadium - and is currently consulting on the extension of the lease and the proposal for a fence only.

On March 17, details regarding the current development proposal were announced on Dartford Council’s website, with an opportunity for people to have their say about the development plans at Heath Lane.

The consultation was due to close on April 8.

Although Dartford Council and Fleetdown United Football Club followed the usual legal procedure to announce the proposal, the Council has said it is “aware of concerns” that some people may have been unaware of the developments.

The decision to go ahead with the plans has not yet been taken and the final consultation has moved to April 25.

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A nearby home owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the News Shopper he was only made aware of the proposal last Monday (April 4), through a school parents’ Facebook group.

He added: “I use the public space daily, sometimes to walk the dog or to visit with my children.

“There has been no signage on the fields, so we’ve had to do it ourselves to make people aware of the proposal.

“We understand that the football club may get annoyed with the dog mess – but I don’t think fencing off two thirds of a public space is a way to resolve this.”

Dartford Council said it was happy to follow up the proposal request in 2021 on the basis that it would help the club “enhance its work with the community”.News Shopper:

A Dartford Borough Council spokesperson said: “Dartford Borough Council has leased land at west Dartford to Fleetdown Football Club for many years and the club is popular in the local community.

“The Club has a growing number of players and an increasing diversity of teams and has recently launched a Development Plan to help it meet the demands it is facing.

“It wants to apply for external funding to help deliver those plans but that depends upon demonstrating that it has a sufficiently long lease.

“It approached the Council in 2021 requesting an extension to its lease and the Council was happy to agree in principle on the basis that it would help the Club enhance its work with the community.

“At the same time, the Club asked for landlord consent to erect a fence to prevent access to the pitch on non-football days with an aim to protect the playing surface and allow it to install match-day equipment, dugouts and club structures on a more permanent basis.

“We advised that the closure of any part of this public space, which has been held for the enjoyment of the public since 1937, would legally be defined as a ‘disposal’ and need to be advertised in the local press and subject to a consultation to allow any objections to be considered before a final decision be taken.

“Appropriate notices dated March 17, 2022, were placed in the local press and on the Council’s website.

“That consultation was due to close on April 8, 2022, and it is important to make clear that no decision has yet been taken.

“The public consultation has followed the usual legal procedure, but we are aware of concerns that some local people may have been unaware of it.

“The Council wants the consultation to be a genuine reflection of local views so in order to ensure all interested parties have their say, the Council is happy to extend the deadline for responses to 25 April 2022 and carry out more awareness raising, including writing directly to properties nearby to alert them to the proposal.

“The Club is well regarded and contributes a great deal to the local community, but the views and rights of local people, walkers and visitors are important to the Council too.

“The Council wants to see its amenity spaces being enjoyed for a wide range of activities and sometimes that means finding ways to encourage some uses but also protecting others.

“Some of the representations received so far relate to the Club’s wider plans and we are keen that there should be no misunderstanding.

“Our consultation relates to an extension of the lease and a proposal to erect a fence and curtail public access that we considered to have a significant impact on the local community.

“It would not extend any rights to the Club to deliver other aspirations within its wider Development Plan, elements of which would require planning permission or the Council’s consent as landowner.

“However, no decision has yet been made and whatever your view of the proposals, everyone is encouraged to respond to the consultation to ensure that the Council’s Cabinet has a full range of views.

“Representations can be made in writing to Head of Legal Services, DBC, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford, DA1 1DR or emailed to FleetdownConsultation@dartford.gov.uk by no later than 25 April 2022 quoting Fleetdown – ref: SC/LS(5)el.”

News Shopper:

A spokesperson for Fleetdown United Football Club said: “Fleetdown United FC are currently in negotiations with Dartford Borough Council regarding an extension to its leasehold on its premises at Heath Lane.

“As part of these negotiations Fleetdown United FC have requested that Dartford Borough Council consider a change to the existing boundary shown in the current lease.

“Fleetdown United FC have followed the procedures set out by Dartford Borough Council throughout this process.

“If agreement in principle is reached for this amendment to the lease Fleetdown United will submit the relevant planning application requests to construct a new boundary fence following the procedures as set out and will comply with all decisions made by Dartford Borough Council.

“Fleetdown United FC understand that the consultation period will end on April 25, 2022.”