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Defunct Thurrock FC’s stadium set to be used by another club

Defunct Thurrock FC’s stadium is set to be used by another club who will be hoping for a positive outcome with a meeting this week.

The current members of the Isthmian League North Division have been playing their home matches at Parkside in nearby Aveley, an 11 minute drive and 5 minutes away from Grays town centre.

In the past, as well as Aveley’s ground, they have ground-shared with East Thurrock United and the Rush Green Stadium.

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Now the former Conference outfit are hoping to move into Thurrock FC’s Ship Lane, with the council’s planning committee due to meet this Thursday to discuss the planning application for the stadium development.

Grays have been wanting a stadium to call their own for many years now and their supporters have been raising funds so that they can produce posters, flyers, stickers and more to raise awareness of the club’s #BringGraysHome campaign.

Nothing has come of that however and now the club are having to turn to other more viable solutions with Thurrock’s empty unused stadium available for some work done on it before use.

Grays vice chairman Glyn Jarvis hopes that councillors will be impressed by the club’s commitment to making a community success of the venture if they are allowed to take over Thurrock’s ground.

The Group 1 Automotive company wish to convert part of the site to a car preparation plant but plan to gift Grays and the local community the football stadium.

They will also put in cash into the improvement and maintenance of community pitches at the Belhus sports centre to offset the loss of youth pitches.

Officers are urging that the application should be refused because it is in the green belt and there are not enough ‘special circumstances’ to override refusal, however Jarvis and many Grays supporters believe the balance of the argument can be swayed by the benefits to the wider community and he will be making a plea direct to councillors.

In it he will say: “As part of the planning permission, the Club will enter into a binding agreement for Thurrock FC’s main pitch, changing rooms, clubhouse and car parking to be used for continued football purposes in perpetuity and sign a Community Use Agreement, prepared in conjunction with Sport England, to secure the wider community use of the facilities for football over the long term.

“This will bring the former ground back into use for competitive games and training for our first team and Under 23 team, which will take about 50 per cent of available pitch time.

“The other 50 per cent will be devoted to a women’s team, boys and girls youth football, disability football, “walking football” (for the over 50s), “end of season” local youth cup finals and the staging of some charity matches supporting good causes.

“It would also release about 120 hours at Aveley Football Club’s Parkside ground, which our first team currently use for our games, for other community football use.

“It was stated in the officer’s report that ’it is considered unlikely that the pitch could tolerate more intensive community use beyond the ‘primary’ use by the GAFC first team. Therefore, compared to a 3G pitch, community use of the existing playing pitch would offer very little benefit’.

“We do not believe this is a fair assessment of our plans for community use at Ship Lane. Many other senior non-league clubs with grass pitches pride themselves on their commitment to make their facilities available in the community and we have every intention of doing the same as described earlier by ensuring that about half of the available pitch time will be for the wider community.

“The club acknowledges that a 3G artificial pitch would be a better long term option and if funding became available, we could increase community involvement even further.

“The Club, which is a full member of the Football Association, became 100% supporter owned and run in 2016, when it was granted permission by the Football Association, Essex County Football Association and the Isthmian Football League to transfer our membership structure from a private club to community ownership.

“We are one of the first football clubs in the country to be owned by their supporters. We have been without a home ground since 2010 when the Recreation Ground in Grays, which we had occupied from 1906, was sold by the private landowners for housing and we have ground shared with other clubs since 2010.

“Despite not having our own facilities, the club has developed an open and inclusive community ethos with over 20 teams comprising more than 400 players, boys and girls, including many youngsters who had previously been associated with Thurrock FC before that club folded in 2018.

“The Club has players through all age groups from our girls starting at four years of age – our ‘Wildcats’ – to our ‘Walking Footballers’ aged 50 to 75, who all play under our name.

“Hundreds of local parents have been able to encourage their children to participate in our national game, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide affordable “football for fun” and competitive football for all our age groups, due to the unavailability of pitches and spaces in the borough.

“The council recently adopted their Active Place Strategy which recognises the lack of good quality grass football pitches in Thurrock and the closure of the Thurrock FC facilities in 2018 has exacerbated an already difficult situation, especially for our younger boys and girls, whose wellbeing is being badly affected by being prevented from using football to help reduce obesity, enjoy a healthier life style and have important social interaction with other young people.

“The retention of the ground at Ship Lane, the £500,000 being made available for improvement to existing football pitch provision in Belhus Park and the release of 120 hours of the Aveley Football Club Parkside facility for community football use, will go some way to help to relieve some of the pressure on the very limited spaces currently available for community football in Thurrock.”

Fans reacted as defunct Thurrock FC’s stadium is set to be used by another club in Grays Athletic, see what they had to say below…

@Official_BeesSF: Hope all goes well for you @GraysAthleticFC

@TyroneOwenNo1: This is the biggest match in our History we really need this

@Andy1726: Best of luck lads

@1EastThurrockFC: All fingers crossed for you guys.

@tilburyfc: Wishing you all the best

@CowlbeckBrett: Good luck. Fantastic memories for me with Purfleet FC (Thurrock) and would be great to see the stadium used again by one of our local clubs. Fully understand appreciate the benefit of artificial pitches, but just love football played on grass, so be good to see it used by Grays.

@MLong94: Ah mate, I miss this place. Some very good memories growing up down The Rec. Will be a massive day for the club and community once we’ve got a ground to call our own again.

@dwebster28: Good luck, sounds just like how Enfield fc got shafted by the chairman and Enfield council when promised money for a new ground

@JJBensons: Would be good to see a new football ground, see too many football grounds sold off.

@Sambridge29: Paintbrushes at the ready

@floody1978: Good luck!

@StewGBillericay: Come on @thurrockcouncil time to do the right thing and #BringGraysAthHome. We’ve been homeless far too long. A massive community club and asset for #Thurrock and #Grays Let’s go forward together

@CharSkinner8: @GraysAthleticFC will thrive with a community home which would secure their long-term future. Over 400 players without any recognisable base is astonishing! Do the right thing @thurrockcouncil

@RealSellars: Good luck assume the ground is good to go so surely will be granted!

@LeeWozza85: @thurrockcouncil you know it makes sense to allow @GraysAthleticFC to have a new home to call our own. Please, please, grant permission

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