THE local community are being invited to shape the future of Barnards Meadow Football Centre in Lowestoft.
Suffolk FA stepped in to take on Barnards Soccer Centre back in October 2022 and just over a year later the site has undergone significant changes with more still to come.
The site has been rebranded as Barnards Meadow Football Centre and the classroom and social space within the pavilion has been regenerated.
New internal and external signage and also advertising opportunities for local companies have also been introduced.
The site was in need of regeneration and Suffolk FA will continue to seek investment in order to make the site a community hub for all things, football as well as physical and mental wellbeing.
Since October 2022, staff have been employed on site and through funding from ASDA Foundation Green Token Giving Fund, Tesco Community Grant, Lowestoft Town Council and Suffolk County Council’s Cllr James Reeder’s Locality Budget, the old classroom has been transformed into a high-quality education space during the daytime and social space to enjoy a tea or coffee in the evenings.
However, the site is still in desperate need of investment.
Suffolk FA Football Development Manager Matt Stebbings, who is the county’s facilities and investment lead, outlined the challenges that lie ahead.
He said: “The 3G playing surface needs to be replaced, the old Metal Halide Floodlight System needs upgrading to a new LED Floodlight System and the pavilion – changing rooms, toilets, kitchen and match official rooms – all require work to ensure the site continues to be open for the local community.
“Without these regenerations and investment, the site will reach the end of its serviceable life and close.”
Initial feasibility work has indicated approximately £300,000 to replace the 3G carpet, £30,000 to upgrade to LED Floodlights and £60,000 to restore the pavilion.
The site has now entered a key phase in the project to bring Barnards Meadow Football Centre back to life. To date, the site has been successful in East Suffolk Council Community Infrastructure Levy, Lowestoft Town Council Community Grant Funding and internal East Suffolk Council Funding to put towards the wider project.
Matt continued: “A drive towards community engagement is the next phase and the team are asking for your input.
“As part of the community engagement, Suffolk FA, the Football Foundation, Sport England, DCMS, East Suffolk Council (and members) and Government (Community Ownership Fund) are currently working to understand how any regeneration of the site could benefit the local Lowestoft community.
“We have created a short form for us to hear your voice, and your opinions. What do you want to see at Barnards Meadow Football Centre?
“This could be anything from using the 3G surface or specific groups (pre/ante-natal, seated exercise, yoga etc) in the classroom space to the potential for additional community offerings on the site. The conversation is open and at this stage nothing is on or off the table.
“As we begin to plan the regeneration, we want to ensure the site can cater for not just the traditional football offer but wider physical and mental health benefits from informal activity.
“This engagement is aimed at anyone and everyone. Whether you are individuals or groups who do or do not use the site, we want to hear from you.”
To access the community engagement, please click below.
“This next stage in the project is vital to understand what works well, what doesn’t and what could be added or improved to ensure the site is not only financially sustainable in its own right, but also delivering on the social, physical and mental outcomes that the site has ambitions to become.
“Suffolk FA, as a registered Charity, want to ensure the site supports tackling inequalities, increasing social interaction and decreasing social isolation, by harnessing the power of sport, and physical activity to improve the health and wellbeing of Lowestoft,” added Matt.