A Huddersfield athletics club founded 135 years ago fears it may be forced to move to North Kirklees which would end athletics training for young people in the town.

Longwood Harriers began in 1888 and has been based at Leeds Road playing fields for 60 years, but has seen its facilities cut previously and now Kirklees Active Leisure wants it to shut the sandpit used for long jump and triple jump.

Eddie Berry who has been a club member since 1963 and is now its president and a coach says there is no need to shut the sandpit and fears it’s part of a move to force the club to locate to the Princess Mary Athletics Stadium in Cleckheaton.

Longwood Harriers had a British long jump champion in the 1980s, Derek Brown, who attended the former Deighton High School.

Eddie, 73, of Netherton, said: “Our club serves nearby areas such as Deighton, Fartown, Rawthorpe and Dalton so it’s crucial it stays here in Huddersfield. Cleckheaton may be only just over five miles away but it’s the main Leeds Road which is always clogged with traffic and it’s a real trek on public transport.

“My overriding aim in life is to encourage people into sport, not discourage them, and the best way to do that is to make facilities as accessible as possible. Schools use our facilities for their sports days too. Once these facilities are gone they’ll never be replaced. Huddersfield will have lost them forever.”

The sandpit used to be protected by a cover but that was stolen during the covid pandemic and at that time people started to use the sandpit as somewhere for their kids to play.

Eddie said Kirklees Active Leisure, which manages the site, fears people may dump syringes, glass and other potentially dangerous items in the sandpit and is worried someone could get hurt and then put in a claim for damages.

But he said the problem could be solved simply by signs telling people not to use the sandpit as a play area and even rope it off or put up barriers.

“All we need are signs telling the public not to use the sandpit and I’m sure most people would abide by that,” said Eddie. “When I’ve approached people whose children are playing in the sand most have said they didn’t realise they weren’t allowed and apologised. If it was cordoned off that would make it even clearer. Why lose a facility for a minority who would ignore signs or a cordon?

“When it comes to health and safety it’s all about managing risk – you can never get rid of all risk. There is always an element of risk on any sports field – football, cricket, rugby, anything – where a member of the public could have dumped something.

“We always turn the sand over and check it before we use it for club training. The only thing I’ve ever fished out of there was a child’s plastic spade. I fear this health and safety excuse is a way to close the Huddersfield athletics facilities and switch everything to Cleckheaton but many people simply wouldn’t or couldn’t travel over there.”

He said the club was even willing to buy another cover for the sandpit to protect it and hope it wouldn’t be stolen this time.

A petition has been set up to try to save the sandpit and people can sign it HERE.

Eddie has always been involved in sport. He started his career as a PE teacher at the former Kirkburton Secondary School and then moved to Shelley High School in 1974. In 1985 he became a sport and leisure lecturer at the former Huddersfield Technical College and was promoted to Head of Sport and Leisure there until he retired in 2008.

Eddie is married to Christine and the couple have a daughter, Fiona, and son Ian who has become an internationally-known artist for his striking work with denim.

Eddie used to take Ian down to Longwood Harriers and he became a good high jumper and hammer thrower, going on to clinch second place in the West Yorkshire Schools with the hammer. That ended when the club’s throwing area was closed several years ago after the council deemed it unsafe not long after it installed an all-weather football pitch in the centre of the running track.

Kirklees Active Leisure have been asked to comment but have not responded.

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.