DISGRUNTLED croquet players have been given their marching orders after nearly 30 years at a sports club because they could be hit by flying cricket balls.
Worcester Norton Croquet Club has been given notice to quit Worcester Norton Sports Club at the end of this season over health and safety concerns, leaving members, many of them elderly, feeling “unwanted”.
But the sports club chairman says the decision has been taken because of the risks to croquet players posed by flying balls, struck by cricketers.
If the sports club extends the cricket pitch, balls are less likely to be hit into homes, gardens, conservatories and cars near the club at the Gordon Jones Memorial Ground in Brockhill Lane, Norton, Worcester, which has saddled the club with hefty bills.
The croquet club, which has between 25 and 35 members, has been based at Worcester Norton Sports Club since 1986 and so far they have been unable to find a new base after beginning the search in January although they are hoping to be able to play in Worcester’s Cripplegate Park.
The croquet club, which has between 25 and 33 members, has applied to Wychavon Sports Development, The Croquet Association, Norton Parish, St Peter’s Garden Centre, Perdiswell sports ground, the Diocese of Worcester, the University of Worcester, Spetchley Park, Croome Park and Manor Park Sports Club in Malvern without success.
Justin Davies, chairman of the club, said: “Most of them (cricket club members) don’t know what croquet is about and couldn’t care less. They’re only interested in their cricket.
“They say it’s to do with health and safety but they are trying to enlarge the cricket field. Apparently it’s not big enough for the Birmingham league. If they hit sixes out on either side they’re likely to kill someone on the croquet lawn or go through a conservatory window.”
The 83-year-old, who has arthritic knees, said the sport was one of the few things he was still able to do to keep healthy and the oldest player was 90 years old.
Mike Goode, chairman of Worcester Norton Sports Club Limited, said the decision was taken “with considerable regret" in February on the grounds of health and safety and the in - creasing costs of damage.
He said: “The croquet club has been a valued part of the sports club since the 1980s and we have been working with them to help them find a new home.
“We have spoken to the parish council, district council and local landowners to see if we ca It is with considerable regret I can confirm Worcester Norton Sports Club gave notice to the Croquet Club to leave the site in February on the grounds of health and safety plus the increasing costs of damage. The Croquet Club has been a valued part of the sports club since the 1980s and we have been working with them to help them find a new home. We have spoken to the Parish Council, District Council and local landowners to see if we can find a site nearby. We have already granted an extension to the end of the current season which runs to September 2014.
The Sports Club incurs significant costs each year paying for damage to homes & conservatories adjacent to the cricket pitch, as well as vehicles parked onsite and nearby. This has increased year by year and become untenable and also there have been a number of near misses with balls flying over the hedge onto the croquet lawns. Our pitches are used most evenings and weekends from April to September by around 200 cricketers.
To clarify the safety risk, Worcester Cricket Club has realistic ambitions of promotion back into the Birmingham Premier League. We enjoyed grandfather rights previously which no longer apply and players at this higher standard simply hit the ball further. At the recent Bunbury XI charity game (in aid of the D’Oliveira Foundation) around a dozen balls were hit out of the ground above mature horse chestnut trees, damaging property, landing in gardens or onto the croquet lawns. We have already been presented with bills to repair this damage. By extending the cricket pitch onto the existing croquet area we can move away from the houses at one end and eliminate the risk of hitting croquet players at the other.
In the long term the club does want to develop the site for wider sport and community use. We need to preserve this valuable green space, make best use of our site and complement other sport and community facilities in the vicinity. This has been discussed for many years with both relocation and redevelopment considered. At an EGM (extraordinary general meeting) in December 2013 an outline plan was shared with members including the Croquet Club. The Sports Club is committed to stay in Norton and we are currently consulting with the relevant authorities and local community to ensure we develop appropriate facilities and give consideration to any planning restrictions which may apply.
"Many of our members, me included, live in the area and are passionate about our community. As well as cricket, shooting, general recreation and dog walking the club recently hosted the award winning Norton Community Games, provide free accommodation to the Norton Youth Club and we are speaking to local community groups about ways to better commemorate the history of the barracks. The Croquet Club has a handful of members who travel from all over the county and offer a quintessentially English past time, enjoyed by many regardless of age. This is something we as a sports club are extremely keen to help protect but it has to be done in a way that is safe and sustainable for all.
We will continue to do all we can to promote sport and community activities."