Plea for eyesore sports ground to become Covid-19 tribute garden

Residents are calling for a former football club to be transformed into a green oasis in tribute to lives lost as a result of coronavirus.

Christine Bott, Sharon Felton, Joyce Gibson and Paul Bott outside the City Ground in Darlaston
Christine Bott, Sharon Felton, Joyce Gibson and Paul Bott outside the City Ground in Darlaston

The campaigners want to see City Ground, the former home of Darlaston Town (1874) Football Club, given a new lease of life as part of the borough's climate change effort.

The pitch off the junction of Slater Street and Waverley Road has not been occupied since the team relocated to Bentley eight years ago.

Now a community partnership is suggesting that it should become an urban nature reserve instead, with park benches and picnic areas installed to accommodate families wanting reflection time.

Resident Joyce Gibson said: "We feel that we should have some kind of tribute to the people who have passed away. We could have a conservation area and a flower meadow.

The City Ground in Darlaston

"We need more trees in the area. I live in Slater Street and people here have been talking about the football ground and how nice it would to have benches and an area for picnics.

"I've lived here for 28 years and I know nothing has been done to the site since the football cub moved. It's the perfect spot for a community project. It just needs someone with a bit of vision to take it on."

Sharon Felton, of nearby town hall operator Darlaston All Active, said: "I've been based at the town hall for five years and nothing has changed at the ground. It is an eyesore.

"At the moment it's attracting antisocial behaviour. There a number of young men hanging round there and it's become a haven for drug dealing.

Wrecked changing rooms at the site

"A lot of community groups are based in the town hall and because of the connections we have lost a lot of people to Covid-19. We think it would be nice if it could become a memorial garden. The railings are vintage and should be kept as they are.

"The council has been really good to us at the town hall. We think if the pitch could be released to the community along with some funding, the residents would get behind the idea to turn it into green space.

"There is already quite a bit of wildlife there, such as squirrels, bats and robins in the area. Let's just turn it over to nature."

The former weight and measures building

Darlaston South ward representative Councillor Paul Bott said he hoped to hold talks with Walsall Council leader Mike Bird over the ideas for the ground, which was vacated in 2013. Since then the spectator stand has been subjected to a number of fires and vandalism.

The club played at the ground from the late 1890s. When it moved Walsall Council took over ownership of City Ground and boarded it up. The land was donated to the town by the Pitcher family.

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