£10k donation helps cricket club finally net long-awaited ball safety barriers
PUBLISHED: 15:32 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 05 September 2019
Safety netting protecting pedestrians from being injured by flying cricket balls has been installed with the help of a £10,000 grant.
Sidmouth Cricket, Tennis and Croquet Club (Sidmouth CT&CC) purchased the nets, which cost £30,000 in total, through club funds and the five figure sum from the Keith Owen Fund.
The seven metre high ball-stop fencing was installed in May as the cricket season got under way as part of an ongoing project to improve health and safety around the Fortfield ground.
The Herald has reported a number of close misses and accidents, including a woman who required 14 stitches in her head, as a result of being struck by a cricket ball.
The club previously said the issue has been ongoing for years and had a number of planning applications rejected by the district council and English Heritage on aesthetic grounds.
Last year, ground trustee Graham Bess proposed a new scheme which only required two sets of stanchions and nets to cover the space, after seeing something similar at South Wilts Cricket Club in Salisbury.
The club submitted proposals for the barriers including one with a netting run of 35 metres and the other 55 metres, which could easily be raised and lowered manually.
Planning permission was granted at the start of this year by the district council.
Neil Gamble, chairman of Sidmouth CT&CC, said the nets will stop balls from landing on The Esplanade and 'richocheting' in directions towards beachgoers.
He said: "Over time, increasing numbers of cricket balls had been hit well beyond the boundary, increasing the likelihood of spectators, croquet and tennis players on the Fortfield and members of the general public in the vicinity of the club being hit.
"Heavier bats, better pitches, stronger batsman and more six-hitting 20/20 cricket had resulted in greater health and safety problems than ever before.
"The new barrier has been highly effective protecting the public from the dangers of flying cricket balls throughout the summer; by general consensus it is unobtrusive, blends into the background particularly well, and addresses health and safety issues very effectively.
"We hope what we have done will improve health and safety and sports provision for people in the town."
A decade ago the Keith Owen Fund helped the club to kick-start a project to replace the pavilion thatch and donated further sums to the club towards the tennis courts and a new changing room in the pavilion.
Mr Gamble said: "The generosity of the Keith Owen Fund has once again been of enormous benefit to the Club, and enhances the safety of its members and the general public."
The club is also looking at increasing the height of the netting on the remaining sides of the fields to protect vehicles parked at The Belmont Hotel and in Bedford Lawn car park.