POSITIVE talks have been held with Denbighshire County Council (DCC) regarding improving the level of maintenance carried out an area of playing fields in Prestatyn.

The Morfas playing fields, on Lon Goed, is used by Prestatyn Athletic Junior Football Club for its matches, and club secretary Ian Price said the area has a ‘footfall of approximately 1,000 people a week’.

Mr Price attended the meeting yesterday (December 8), which followed a more general council meeting last Friday (December 3) about sports pitch maintenance and management across the county.

Also in attendance yesterday was fellow club representative Ant Gomez, Councillor Paul Penlington, ward member for Prestatyn North on DCC, Cllr Tina Jones and Cllr Hugh Irving for Prestatyn Central on DCC, Tony Ward, DCC’s head of highways and environmental services, and James Davies, MP for the Vale of Clwyd.

The council agreed to a return to ‘general maintenance’ of the pitches, and funding will be sought to ensure the playing fields remain in a good state for the foreseeable future.

This followed Mr Price’s claim that the council downgraded the pitches from playing fields to an open space, meaning it had less responsibility for its maintenance (including grass cutting and line marking).

Mr Price, who has been club secretary for 20 years, said: “It was positive. No promises were made, but at least people are listening and trying to act on things.

“It’s not like the usual scenario where it’s just been a case of: ‘There’s no money’ and that’s it. They’re actually looking down different routes of funding. Of course, it doesn’t just apply to the Morfas; it applies to all similar areas across Denbighshire.

“There was just no plan (previously) to do anything on them at all besides cut the grass, so they’re looking down the route of formulating some kind of plan.

“General maintenance helps stop the pitches getting into such a bad condition and, because of the decline in general maintenance over the years, things have just got worse. “

“I don’t expect anything quickly, but they are going to look into doing some urgent repairs that need doing on the Morfas, just to help keep us going, but that wouldn’t happen until the end of the season, anyway (next May).

“To be fair to Tony Ward, he took on everything we had to say about the place, and he wants to keep the dialogue going and keep arranging meetings to see where we’re at.”

Prestatyn Athletic JFC, who Mr Price said has ‘probably spent £32-34,000’ hiring the Morfas pitches during his two decades as chairman, currently has 17 teams and more than 250 boys and girls registered with the club.

Football has played at the Morfas playing fields since 1973, but Mr Price told the Journal last week that, due to lack of maintenance, the pitches are no longer being lined and are becoming ‘dangerous’.

Councillor Penlington, who has helped support Mr Price and Prestatyn Athletic in their attempts to cause DCC to enhance its level of maintenance of the fields, echoed Mr Price’s hopes that yesterday’s meeting will the start of a more open dialogue between the club and the council.

He said: “Ian Price and Antony Gomez put their case to Tony Ward brilliantly.

“It’s a shame the pitches have been allowed to get into such a poor condition; that seems to largely be as a result of poor communication within DCC over many years.

“Tony Ward, though, was very keen to support the club and find a way to improve the pitches for decades ahead.

“I am very pleased that Tony Ward has now agreed that DCC will return to general maintenance, like marking the pitches, while looking for long-term substantial funding.”

Dr Davies added his support for the plans, highlighting the important social benefit playing football on the Morfas provides young people, particularly amid the heightened sense of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “I understand the football pitches on the Morfas have been in use for nearly half a century, and I praise the many voluntary hours put in by Ian Price, Ant Gomez and others at Prestatyn Athletic JFC in facilitating over 1,500 hours of exercise a week to children.

“This is so important, especially given all the time many young people have spent at home, inactive, during the pandemic lockdowns.

“The pitches are in need of investment, with subsidence and uneven patches, but there is also a need to reinstate better maintenance, including regular grass cutting and line marking, reseeding, aerating, and repair of the goalposts.

“I am pleased to support efforts to secure a greater commitment to regular maintenance via the county council, and also funding from the Football Association of Wales, for the more significant works required.

“If these can go ahead, the pitches will be in a good state to provide service for decades more to come.”

A spokesperson for DCC said: “We were pleased to have a positive meeting with representatives of the club to discuss the issues raised and will continue to engage with them over the use of the playing field.”