Pride as village finally gets its long-awaited sports pavilion

Lord and Lady Iveagh, left, with Lakenheath Playing fFelds committee at the opening of Lakenheath Pavillion
Lord and Lady Iveagh, left, with Lakenheath Playing fFelds committee at the opening of Lakenheath Pavillion
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AFTER years of campaigning, Lakenheath finally has a sports pavilion.

This is no square hut but a smart slate-roofed pentagon with capped flint walls and space to seat more than 160 people.

After officially opening it Lord Iveagh, whose Elveden Estates owns the land, said: “It’s an exceptional building. It’s got a good feel about it when it could have been unimaginative and mundane.

“There’s no use better than this for Elveden Estates’ land and I’m proud to be following in my forebears’ footsteps in supporting the Playing Fields Association.”

A photograph on the walls shows Lord Iveagh’s father opening Lakenheath Playing Fields in the 1960s.

District and parish councillor David Gathercole, Playing Fields Association chairman, said the idea of a pavilion had been around for 10 to 15 years but the committee that achieved it had been working on it for about three years.

Saturday’s official opening was attended by villagers, councillors, contractors, MP Matthew Hancock, commanders of RAF Mildenhall’s 100th Air Refuelling Wing and RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing, council officers and those who had volunteered their time and expertise to the project.

Cllr Gathercole told of the struggle to raise funds when obstacles like vandalism on the existing field’s buildings swallowed money. But he also spoke of the considerable help they had had in getting funding from various sources and the tens of thousands of pounds saved by the generosity of local people and companies.

Farmers helped to plough and reseed the playing fields, then others provided irrigation to see the new grass through a dry spring.

EDF Energy buried overhead cables for free. Cllr Gathercole said: “I estimate that this saved the association £10,000 to £15,000.”

The contractor who dug the cable trenches and refilled them did it for free and returned to complete the car park’s groundwork, saving the association another £50,000.

Playing Fields Association vice-chairman Tracy Whitehead said: “We’ve had a lot of people put in a lot of work, some for free and some just charging for materials.”

Her brother Kevin Watts was the building’s architect and also charged a reduced fee. She said the project cost about £650,000.

“It would have been easy just to build a square room but we wanted it to be more of a statement piece in keeping with what will go on here,” she said. “Now it’s finished I’m so proud.”