GUISELEY AFC have taken the very difficult decision to postpone the installation of their Artificial Grass Pitch (AGP), due to be installed during the close season 2023/24.

In a statement released by the club, they said: "The club had secured planning permission from Leeds City Council, which was granted in August 2023 with nine conditions. Whilst most of the conditions were expected and acceptable, for example relating to how the site was going to be operated during the construction phase. Two conditions – Condition 6 and Condition 8 are significantly more problematic and have serious implications for the financial viability of the pitch.

"The AGP was being completely privately funded through a series of loans, the repayment schedule was based upon the pitch being used 50 hours per week; this is the usage recommended by the carpet manufacturer to prevent overuse and ensure that the lifespan of the carpet is approximately 8 years. To compete in the National League system, the club’s pitch must pass an annual test, once the pitch has failed the test the carpet has to be replaced. School and community AGPs do not have to undertake this testing.

"The main objective was for the club to use this asset to create a sustainable future for the club and provide additional facility space for local community users. The original business plan entailed a mixture of cost savings for the club (the first team and Academy training on the pitch) and affordable hire for junior clubs, Guiseley Community Foundation, and commercial rates for private groups – typically groups of players playing on a regular basis.

"Condition 6 asked the club to produce a plan for community access that was acceptable to Sport England and the Football Foundation. The club fully supports community access and was in advanced talks with three local junior clubs all keen to hire the facility to guarantee matches and ensure training could be undertaken. The submitted plan was rejected by Sport England and the club was told that it should “include match- rates at weekends equivalent to the Local Authorities price for natural turf pitches”.

" It is not just Sport England suggesting that a high-grade stadium-based pitch is the same value as an unfenced, undrained, uncut pitch located in a park, without any toilet facilities. It is the impact upon the club’s budget. Charging considerably lower rates is significant and would prevent us from creating a sustainable future for the club and a sink-fund to replace the carpet when required.

"Condition 8 relates to parking facilities at the club, it was deemed by Leeds City Council that there was insufficient space on-site, and that a 30-minute gap needed to be enforced between each booking. This resulted in a one third reduction in our projected income. The club was unable to discuss this matter directly with the Leeds City Council instead having to re-submit various plans at a cost of over £200 each time to try and remove the condition. The first plan submitted in response to this condition was rejected in part as it stated that there were 42 parking spaces and the council records showed 37 parking spaces. At no point did anyone visit the site or ask for evidence, which would have proven 42 spaces were available, it was just one of the reasons for rejection.

"Following a lengthy Board meeting the Directors concluded that it would be uneconomical to attempt to press forward at this point and have reluctantly cancelled the contract for the pitch installation. The Directors would formally like to thank both SSL and Hunts for their understanding during this difficult decision. Guiseley AFC will spend the next few months planning how we can best move the club forward in a sustainable manner."