A New Era for the Millbridge

Easter week was most certainly a ‘red letter’ day for Ballynahinch United F.C when they received news that the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Planning Committee had approved its Planning Application for the redevelopment of its Millbridge facilities.

This is the culmination of a five years planning by the Club Committee which will now progress toward securing the much-needed funding to complete the project which involves the ‘extension of the clubhouse, stone car parking, perimeter fencing and sightline improvement to the access /egress and a proposed spectator stand.’

One of the reasons behind this project is to ensure that the club’s facilities meet the requirements of an Intermediate Football Club as outlined in the rules of the Irish Football Association. The project however has a higher-level aim and that is to create a HUB that can be used by the local community for a range of activities day and daily.

The Club House: The following facilities are proposed within the redeveloped clubhouse: 

  • Ground Floor: 2 x Team & 1 x Referees Changing Rooms each with showers and toilet facilities, Disabled Toilet, Lift, Gym and Training Store.
  • First Floor: Meeting Room, Kitchen, Bar, Lounge Clubroom, Deck Terrace & Toilets.
  • Stone car parking will be provided as part of the accommodation works related to the proposed Ballynahinch By-Pass to compensate for the loss of match day car parking when our existing training pitch is vested.
  • Perimeter Fencing: This will surround the whole ground and will incorporate turnstiles and emergency exits.
  • Sightline improvement: this will involve a realignment of the entrance area to improve access/ egress by club members, spectators or the regular traffic accessing the NI Water facilities beyond the clubhouse.Proposed Spectator Stand: This will be sited on the riverside of the ground and will facilitate a minimum of 50 spectators.

The Club Committee, whilst optimistic that it will secure the necessary finance to see this project to fruition, is under no illusion how difficult that this is likely to be. Nevertheless, reaching this milestone gives the Club considerable encouragement that it will be able to build on the phenomenal progress that the Club has already made in improving its Millbridge facilities in almost forty years.

Ballynahinch United was invited to take over Millbridge in the mid 1980’s and it set about the necessary works required to bring the pitch and changing accommodation up to the required standard to enable it to attain Intermediate status. 

W.A.M. contractors were engaged to install a new drainage system and reseed the pitch at a cost of £1395 whilst work was undertaken to the existing shell of a Club House to provide changing facilities and showers for visiting teams and the referee in the sum of £1640. 

Year on year small improvements were undertaken such as minor drainage schemes, erection of tubular steel fencing, new dugouts, training pitch floodlighting, club house improvements, mobile toilet block and security measures due to constant vandalism and break ins. Most of these works have relied on the tradesmen within the club giving of their time and skills whilst the essential materials were paid for through the generosity of a large number of local businesses, club members and the occasional grant aid.

The club has grown substantially over its 55 year history rising from a single team in 1968 to 2 Adult male team’s [Northern Amateur Football League and Newcastle & District Football League], an Adult Ladies team [NI Women’s FA] , Mini Soccer & 5 Youth teams [U10, UII, U12, U15 & U17] [South Belfast Youth League and u7, U8, U9 Girls and U10 [Belfast Games Development Programme]. This involves around 220 players [170 male and 50 female] and requires 34 [including 8 females] volunteer administrators, coaches, groundsmen etc.

The club is indebted to former player Gary Harpur [Gary Harpur Architect, 8 Tullywest Road, Saintfield] whose design for the clubhouse saw it safely pass a number of hurdles not least of which was the fact that our property is located on a flood plain. In addition, he was able to incorporate the effect that the proposed Ballynahinch By-pass willeventually have on the facilities when a section of our training area is due to be vested. The Committee is most grateful to the NM&D District Council for the award of a grant last year for the raising of a Business Case in support of the project which has been developed by Forsythe Consulting.

We would also wish to record our thanks to Councillors Alan Lewis [Slieve Croob DEA] and Johnny Jackson [Rowallane DEA] for their support on a series of issues relating to the club and its facilities as well as the encouragement they have given to the Committee to progress this important community facility.