Kim Ashton’s last-minute plea for Aughnacloy sport facility prompts council change-of-heart

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It took a passionate and sometimes strident plea from DUP Councillor Kim Ashton to force Mid Ulster Council to reverse a controversial decision to axe funding for a community sports facility.

Mid Ulster Council had decided to end an agreement made between the former Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council and Dungannon Royal School, over the use of its astroturf facilities.

The deal, put in pace a decade ago, allowed local sporting clubs such as Dungannon Ladies Hockey Team to use the astroturf pitch.

The council made the unpopular decision on the grounds that other clubs in the new council area did not benefit from similar agreements.

However, after a long debate at Thursday night’s monthly meeing of the council, the chamber proposed to renew the funding for the Aughnacloy facility, and to review the case for funding the other pitches.

Councillor Ashton warned that axing the money for the Aughnacloy pitch would jeopardise a £600,000 investment.

She suggested that the true cost of supporting the facility was far less than the one estimated by the council, whose officers she accused of pulling figures out of the air.

She maintained that the true figure was just £2,750.

“There is huge support for these facilites in the local communities and very active organisations in the area promoting sports”, she said.

“It is so important the council gets behind hockey and gives it as much investment and attention as other sports get in the district.

“It’s important we invest in sport so young people from this area have the facilities to train on so that they can achieve their full potential.”

Councillors pointed out that the Aughnacloy pitch had vibrant cross-community support. Mid Ulster Council will now review the funding positions of the other pitches at a further meeting of the Development Committee.