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Open Letter From Churchill Playing Fields Action Group

Churchill Plan A (images: Roger Devy)

Below is a letter from Roger Devy of the Churchill Playing Fields Action Group, which I’ve reproduced in full, along with the pitch layout plans referred to in the letter. It was written as an open letter to local councillors and Oldham Council. To make the diagrams larger, simply click on them.

If you want to respond to the points made in the letter, you can either leave a comment below this post, or send an e-mail by clicking on the Contact option at the top of this page. If you would like an e-mail published on this website then please mark it as a letter to the editor, and I’ll be happy to do so.

Past Saddleworth News articles and letters about Churchill Fields can be found here.

IT IS CONTINUALLY STATED by the councillors and council officers who are in favour of the proposed drainage scheme for Churchill Playing Fields that a fourth additional adult football/rugby pitch is required at Churchill to sustain the current level of use and ensure the facility can cope with growth in demand.

It is also their belief that a four pitch layout could not be achieved without the removal of the existing cinder running track.

This view has been voiced by Cllr Beeley and others at meetings of the Saddleworth Parish Council, Saddleworth and Lees District Partnership, by council officers involved in the project, and at the open meeting at Uppermill Civic Hall on 1 March 2011.

Churchill Plan B

Typical examples of these views were contained in letters of support for the proposals received from Cllr Stretton, the RFL and Lisa Macdonald.

Cllr Jean Stretton, 29 June 2011: “I have been advised that it is not possible to retain the cinder track at the same time as achieving four adult size pitches.”

Carol Doran at the RFL, 8 July 2011: “We have been informed that unfortunately it will not be possible to accommodate the proposal to develop a further adult pitch whilst retaining the running track.”

Lisa Macdonald, 5 August 2011: “It is not possible to provide four adult pitches – without removing the track.”

However, it should be noted the opinion that a four adult pitch layout at Churchill will require the removal of the existing cinder track is incorrect. The Churchill Playing Fields Action Group through myself and others have pointed out on many occasions that a four adult pitch layout of the pitch sizes required can easily be achieved at the Churchill facility whilst retaining the existing track.

To illustrate this pitch layout I have attached two plans of the Churchill site. The first plan, Churchill Plan A, shows the “provisional four adult pitch layout – removing track” as outlined at the open meeting at the Civic Hall on 1 March 2011. This plan outlined by Cllr Beeley and others at the open meeting clearly indicated the sizes of the pitches required.

The second plan, Churchill Plan B, shows the “alternative four adult pitch layout – retaining track.” On each plan the number of adult pitches (four) and the size of each adult pitch is exactly the same. You will clearly see from the evidence that the four adult pitch layout can adequately be achieved without the removal of the existing cinder running track and the drainage proposals should be advanced on this basis.

Roger Devy

Churchill Playing Fields Action Group


  • Hannah Roberts says:

    An excellent letter which blows away the smokescreen of spin and misinformation that Oldham Council and some of our local councillors are putting up to railroad this scheme through.

    What an appalling legacy for the 2012 Olympic year – What a lack of vision and ambition to rip up the only athletics track for miles !

    What a contrast with the vision and ambition for our young people which led local people to start the Saddleworth Olympics 26 years ago in 1985, inspired by the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

    The open letter demolishes any argument that the Athletics track has to be removed for ‘technical reasons’ . This is a political decision pure and simple – and shame on all those involved.

    We should be launching a campaign and appeal to upgrade the facilities for Athletics on Churchill Fields as a fitting legacy for the 2012 London Olympics. I’m sure we could get public and institutional support – all we need is the vision and ambition that Oldham Council so painfully lack.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme says:


    I am the author of the first comment not my wife Hannah Roberts – sorry – must be these new fangled wireless connections !

    Cllr Ken Hulme

  • Michael Tinker says:

    the Saddleworth 10k race had to be started from the Tennis club this year not sure why

  • Simon Mayer says:

    It’s good to see that there is a proposal that may provide a suitable compromise for all parties.
    However, it seems that the author and Cllr Hulme have assumed that the only consideration is fitting the pitches and running track anywhere within the entire patch of land.

    I’d encourage those who wish to see the track retained to take this up with the council and make FOI requests where necessary; but there may be other considerations – things like drainage, future maintenance and other logistical issues may mean the pitches of particular size need to be placed in particular locations. I don’t know that for a fact, I’m just playing Devil’s advocate.
    I also notice that Plan A features a dashed outline around the largest pitch, but this would appear to overlap part of the running track if it were included on Plan B. Furthermore the 57m x 37m area from plan A has been covered by one of the pitches in Plan B.

    I do hope that the council reply with a detailed answer to this alternative proposal.
    I am not sure how true it is, but I have read frequent comments on here that suggest a lack of openness from the council. If the council feel they are doing the right thing, it would be nice to see them put their case forward. A public statement would almost certainly help.

  • Michael Reeves says:

    Its worth pointing out that the scheme as proposed has a huge amount of support for users of the facility. I am sure that Saddleworth Parish Council, Saddleworth and Lees District Partnership, together with the funders and all parties involved in the proposal have considered the options and taken significant and considered technical advice on a workable solution, which has resulted in the current scheme.

    As Chairman of Uppermill Football Club, I am acutely aware of the huge amount of work and support, from not only us but also Saddleworth Rangers, Diggle FC, 3D Dynamos, and Springhead AFC to name but a few, that goes into the community largely for the benefit of young people to take part in structured sporting activities. This not only involves the players, but their families, coaches, managers, spectators, officials – thousands of people stand to benefit from this development.

    Churchill needs to be sorted now before it becomes totally unusable – any further procrastination will end up with funding either being withdrawn or unavailable, which would be an absolute disaster for the Saddleworth community and the development of sport in the area for years to come.

    This is a really exciting proposal which Saddleworth deserves and one which should be embraced.

  • Scott Wild says:

    Churchill playing fields have been in need of restoration for years and years. It has been subject to severe flooding since the 1980’s that I can remember. The drains need sorting once and for all so local community sports clubs and residents alike can enjoy what a great facility it is. Please ensure this proposed project goes ahead, it doesn’t make sense to leave the playing fields in the mess they currently are.Thank you.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme says:

    I have to ask Michael and some of our local councillors – Why this obsession with destroying the running track ?

    It is clear after a thorough examination that there are absolutely no technical reasons why drainage works on Churchill fields cannot take place while retaining the running track.

    Similarly there is no reason as Roger Devy demonstrates in the Open Letter why all the 4 football pitches proposed for Churchill fields cannot be fitted in without ripping up the running tracks.

    Of course I want Churchill Fields sorted out – what I simply don’t understand is why Michael doesn’t work with the Churchill Fields Action Group and others is reach a sensible solution to the issue. Clearly both sides can be accommodated.

    Why this obsession with tearing up the Athletic track at all costs ? Is there some other reason ? Some longer term plans for Churchill Fields perhaps ?

  • Adam Wilson says:

    As a player for over 15 years, as a coach spanning all age and gender groups at Uppermill FC and also as a former junior at Saddleworth Rangers Rugby Club i am fully supportive of the proposal to give Churchill the facelift it so desperately needs

    As it stands the facilities at Churchill are only running at about 70% of their full potential. As a result of the inevitable bad weather we have to suffer in our part of the world there are more sporting activities postponed at Churchill than any other sporting venue i have ever played at. It is such a waste of such a great sporting area.

    I fully understand the worries of some of the comments on this forum about the removal of the running track BUT i am sure that this does not have to be doom and gloom. I myself competed in the Saddleworth Olympics when i was younger and for that month of the year made good use of the running track.

    However when i was at school i also used to compete in sports days on which we ran on a track marked out on a grass sports field. As a youngster the difference was minimal. I am sure that it would be possible to incorperate more sports including athletics if the suggested plans went ahead.

    To conclude…is this not about getting more people involved in sport? If these proposals do not go ahead then i am worried that the damage would be much worse as i am sure that Churchill will just run into the ground.

    Lets get and done and quick!!!!



  • Adam Wilson says:

    Ps….in reply to Cllr Ken Hulme’s earlier post i would like to add that the Olympics is alot more than just athletics and would like to remind him that Football is also and Olympic sport!!!

    Thankyou 🙂

  • George says:

    It’s unfortunate that the plan looks like an erect penis and balls with one testicle highlighted. Or maybe it’s deliberately subliminal to show it’s a bollocks plan 😉

  • Chris says:

    Terrible mix of grudges, local politics and rumour-mongering on this debate. Deary me. I run regularly as anyone who follows my tweets would know and I’ve never once run round the track on Churchill. I use the roads or grass.

    What I have done is trudge down there at all times of the year for other events only to find the event cancelled or even worse still on and I’ve had to slop round in flood-like conditions. Sorting that has to be the priority. It’d be a shame if the running track had to go but to be fair, you can run anywhere. You can’t play football or rugby anywhere.

    My kids participate in the Saddleworth Olympics and I’m quite sure they’d rather do it on semi-dry ground rather than the marsh that is there now.

    As for Georges comment, deep and insightful. It made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure I’ve ever “LOL’d” before at a post on Saddleworth news so well done!


  • Cllr Ken Hulme says:


    Why do you and other keeping pitting football and athletics against each other ?

    It’s clear both sports can be accommodated in any scheme to improve the drainage and surely working together it makes funding applications so much stronger. Why this stubborn refusal to seek a sensible compromise ?

    PS for many years my son was a star goalkeeper for one of the Delph football teams in the Olympics – and very proud of him I was too !

  • Anthony Gothard says:

    I am a great supporter of improving the facilities at Churchill playing fields. Even walking up the middle of the present facilities in winter is a disgrace.

    I have run a team on Churchill and have had 90% cancellations for football from November through to March. The drainage should be sorted out sooner rather than possibly not al all.

    However I would also support ideas for the retention of the running track which I have also used personally and through my involvement with the Olympics over many years

  • Max Lawton says:

    The Churchill debate has been an on going saga for far too long. The fact is we are in a position to see significant improvements in the near future and this opportunity is too good to miss. If we don’t go with these proposals I fear the chance will be lost forever.

    It is not a question of pitting one sport against another, it is what can we do to suit the majority considering the resources currently available and the timescales imposed.

    If we do not take this opportunity it will be impossible to play any sport on Churchill because it will not be in a fit state to do anything!!

  • Derek says:

    A cinder running track FFS, more London 1948 than 2012 methinks

  • Adam Wilson says:


    You are obviously a well educated man so i will ask you to re-read my message! Its quite clear that i am not pitting any sport against another. Infact i quote from my previous post…..

    ” I am sure that it would be possible to incorperate more sports including athletics if the suggested plans went ahead. ”

    I am simply…like most other people on here….trying to make the point that participation in sport of any kind could be severly damaged if nothing is done about Churchill now.

    As a number of people have mentioned this funding isnt going to stay around for ever so we need to act fast before it is withdrawn and reallocated to an area that will obviously appreciate more.


  • Jill Davies says:

    Just to restate the case one more time for the people who think the playing fields action group want to stop the development of Churchill Playing Fields; CPFAG are whole heartedly behind the proposals to drain the playing fields but we simply want to preserve the track as it can clearly be seen from Roger Devy’s suggested plan, there is room for track AND 4 adult pitches. This being the case, what possible reason can there be to dig a facility that so many people want to keep?

  • Simon Mayer says:

    There have been quite a few ‘possible’ reasons suggested (by both sides) in these comments, but the reality is that we are just speculating.

    Have any of those campaigning to retain the track made a freedom of information request to Oldham Council to ask why the proposed layout has been chosen and specifically why they have chosen not to accommodate four fields and a track in a manner similar to Roger Devy’s plan?

    If they have, it would be helpful if they could publish the response here or maybe hand the information directly to Richard.

    There is a great deal of speculation posted here, but the council are unlikely to answer unless you ask them directly.

  • local says:

    This is great news. the pitches and the track can both be accomodated. Everyone should be happy. It seems a shame so much time was wasted with other plans. Lets crack on with the drainage

  • Cllr Ken Hulme says:

    Absolutely ‘local’ – couldn’t agree more. It will take no time at all to tweak the plans to accommodate the running track – a day or two’s work at the most.

    It would make any funding bids that much stronger.

    I only hope the reason Oldham Council are being so stubborn in continuing to insist that the running track is removed isn’t because they have an ulterior motive that goes far beyond draining the fields.

    It has been suggested to me by several people who claim to be ‘in the know’, including council officers, that plans are afoot to transfer Churchill Fields out of Oldham Council ownership to some sort of ‘Trust’ led by some of the local football clubs.

    So behind the scenes a longer game is being played out!

    I sincerely hope that is not the case.

  • I am Chairman of Diggle FC, users of Churchill Playing Fields for 44 years.
    It is sad that the CPFAG seek to jeapordise the future development of Churchill Playing Fields, the major sports facility in Saddleworth, for the sake of a much abused, hardly ever used and unfit for purpose running track.
    The bid to renovate and improve Churchill PF is a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide present and future sports facilities for the young and adult population of the Saddleworth community.
    The CPFAG are a small minority with Saddleworth Runners at their core. I am told that Saddleworth Runners do not want a new running track. I am also informed that provision for their requirements are incorporated in the new plans.Why then persist with a dog in the manger attitude, which insists on retaining a broken, unsafe facility which blocks the opportunity to create a modern absolutely essential sports complex which will benefit the vast, largely silent, majority of other sports users? There are literally thousands of young and old football and rugby players together with casual sports users who will be left with a rapidly deteriorating waste of space if this golden oppotunity is passed up.
    The title Churchill Playing Fields Action Group infers a wish to move forward, improve and join together. I therefore urge the Group to open their eyes a bit wider and embrace the majority and the future. Don’t be held to blame should all the hard work and effort to get this far comes to naught.

  • local says:

    George, i’m not a member of the action group, but i’m a volunteer who helps with the village olympics. I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Nobody wants to jeapordise the improvement of the drainage problem.
    I think the action group is made up of interested parties that should have been included in the consultation process, and if anything has caused trouble its been this.
    I’m sure Saddleworth runners are predominantly interested in the fells and are grateful for some of the recent amendments to the plans.
    No one wants to miss out on the drainage work. The people who aren’t as interested in football as you are, are just disappointed a public facility (the running track) is not being improved but has to be removed.
    If someone planned to dig up football pitches without telling you I’m sure you’d be up in arms.

  • Jill Davies says:

    Thank you ‘local’ for saying some of what I was about to write.
    Yes, Saddleworth Runners are at the core of the CPFAG but the CPFAG tries to speak for the people in Saddleworth who are not members of sport’s clubs but who wish to see the running track saved as a local amenity whether it be for running, for their children to ride their bikes or for social events such as the Saddleworth Show and the Yanks weekend or anything else that they enjoy doing on it. That is why we do not want an expensive synthetic track which may be damaged by some of these activities.
    George, you refer to the track as being ‘broken’ and ‘not fit for purpose’. I’m not sure what broken means but I agree with you about it being not fit for purpose – at the moment. Neither are the pitches fit for purpose. That is why we all want the area drained then the tracks and pitches will be usable again. I would also point out that a properly drained cinder track is far more ‘fit for purpose’ than a track marked out on grass.
    All the people who have signed the petition to retain the track do only amount to a minority next to the combined numbers of the rugby and football players and supporters but, at this point in time, when it is seen as a priority for more people to take exercise and become involve in sport we have to cater for everyone’s needs and not everyone wants to play rugby or football.
    George, I would ask you to open your eyes a little wider and see that there is a way for all of us to benefit from your vision of a sports complex but one that is inclusive of minority sports too.

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