Swansea City caretaker manager Alan Tate has backed a petition by residents in the Swansea Valley to save the playing fields at Ynysderw in Pontardawe.
Neath Port Talbot council intend to build a school on the fields near the Pontardawe Leisure centre but have been accused of “lying” to force the move through.
Asked how important the playing fields are, the former Swansea defender said “I think they are massive. They are vital for grassroots sport but even before grassroot sport. For the kids to play with friends they meet in school from different areas. It is what I used to do when I was a kid. I’d play with people I met in school, whether football or cricket and the more open space the better. It opens their imagination and gives access to different games and sports. It is socialising at the end of the day.”
Petition to Save Ynysderw Playing Fields
A petition to save the fields has been signed by over 1,000 people within 48 hours. Asked whether he backed the petition, Tate said “Yeah 100%. Anything that gets the kids into not just sport but also into mixing with each other and getting to know each other is a good thing. The fields are not just used by people from Pontardawe but from Trebanos, Clydach and surrounding areas, it is great socially.”
“The more open fields we can keep will help produce more people who play rugby, cricket, football etc…. Not everyone will go onto become professional, but they all meet friends, whether they go onto play in the pub league or wherever. It keeps people active all their lives. It is there to make friends for life, I have mates now who I played with when I was younger. They did not make professional, but we are still good mates.”
Fields in Trust
The fields are protected by Fields in Trust, which ensures that they cannot be built on. However, a freedom of information request revealed that the council are attempting to swap a different field to be protected. A swap which local resident Ben Thomas sees as unfair. “The land being offered by the local authority ‘in exchange’ for the playing field is woodland – a completely inappropriate swap for a few reasons.”
“For one, you can’t play cricket/football/rugby or have community fetes etc. in the woods. Secondly, the woodland being nominated has no prospect of ever being developed on as it’s floodplain woodland, and cliff-side woodland.”
“It is not a like-for-like (or “like-for-better”) in any sense of the term. They might as well exchange the playing fields for land on the moon or at the bottom of the sea from future development.”
Neath Port Talbot Council ‘dishonest’
Within the email exchange between council officer and fields in trust the officer said that “the pitches in these areas are not really used as they have very poor drainage”. This comment has caused a fierce backlash from residents claiming it is dishonest.
This is something which Alan Tate agrees with: “I think it is dishonest. My little boy has been over there a fair few times. He went to some soccer school’s pre-pandemic. They are working on getting it back. To say its not being used, how do you judge that? on a rainy day or on a dry hot day?”
“There are only a few boys and girls who go every time no matter what. You need there to be the space when the conditions are nice. You notice that there are more people playing cricket when the ashes are on. Rugby is obviously a massive sport in Wales. There won’t be a guaranteed set number of people using the field at any time, it will go up and down depending on different factors. The space is needed and to say it is not well used is not fair in my opinion.”
Whilst signing the petition, many signatories stated how well the fields are used. Many with personal experience playing on them. You can view their comments and the petition here:-http://chng.it/qtPdPJGSjP