A hockey club leader fears upgrades to a sports pitch have ‘killed off’ the sport in Copeland.

Paul Maxwell, chairman of West Lakes Hockey Club, says the new 3G pitch currently being installed at Cleator Moor Activity Centre is not suitable for playing hockey on.

He has written a letter to Copeland’s Mayor, Mike Starkie, demanding an explanation and calling for measures to be put in place to ensure hockey can still be played in the borough.

Improvements to the facility, which is run by GLL on Copeland Council’s behalf, are being funded from the £500,000 accelerated Towns Fund grant.

The cash was successfully secured by the council and Cleator Moor Town Fund Board last year.

Mr Maxwell said it was “incredibly disappointing” to hear that the pitch was being replaced without any notice, despite the club previously liaising with GLL on its future.

His letter, which has been shared with The Whitehaven News, says: “Prior to Covid-19, we had been in discussion with Better regarding the state of the pitch as it had become dangerous and was preventing us from hosting tournaments.

“This came as a complete surprise to our club. This was also not communicated to the sport’s governing body, England Hockey.”

The letter goes on to say: “The selection of a playing surface that is not suitable for hockey appears to be a commercial decision that deliberately excludes part of our community and as there are no other suitable pitches in West Cumbria, this has effectively

‘killed’ off the sport within the borough.”

However, Mr Starkie said he was looking into alternative arrangements for the hockey club.

He said: “The decision to make the upgrades to the pitch at Cleator Moor was made following feedback collated during our Towns Fund consultation.

“The pitch was unused for a period of time and upgrades were needed in order to bring the location back into use for the benefit of the community.

“We have many sports teams in the area looking for spaces to practice and for matches to be played and the upgrade works allow for more residents to use the facility.

“A number of local clubs, including football and rugby, provide activities for hundreds of adults and young people in the area, and by upgrading the pitch it means wider access for more residents.

“I have met this morning with representatives from Sport England and England Hockey to discuss the issue of the pitch and its suitability for the Western Lakes Hockey Club.

“We are looking into the possibility of identifying alternative arrangements for the team, and we hope that an adequate solution can be found in the near future.

“We are currently in the process of producing a Playing Pitch Strategy which assesses the need for playing pitches in the borough. This will be updated to reflect the changes at the Cleator Moor Centre.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the relevant agencies to seek a suitable alternative to the use of the 3G pitch at Cleator Moor for Western Lakes Hockey Club, and I welcome any local involvement from the team, in these discussions.”