COUNCILLOR Louis Stephen has defended his support of a £2.9million hockey facility in Worcester amid a barrage of claims of hypocrisy on social media.

The leader of the city’s Green Party voted for a proposal for Worcester City Council to underwrite a government loan of £2.1million for a new venture between Worcester Hockey Club and Royal Grammar School (RGS) Worcester in June.

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Plans are in place to build two international-standard hockey pitches on a site where amateur football is currently played on Droitwich Road.

The city council purchased adjoining land to facilitate the project, creating a plot big enough to accommodate Worcester City Football Club’s proposed stadium development less than one mile away from Perdiswell – the club’s preferred location.

Added to the fact City’s supporters’ trust has planning permission but cannot gain access to council-owned land at Perdiswell, feelings are running high over Cllr Louis backing a venture that could see green belt land developed.

“Every case has to be considered on its own merits,” said Cllr Louis.

“The thing about this type of football is that it is a spectator sport. It is the 400, 500, 600 people going to watch the match whereas the hockey is more participatory.

“It is not expected there will be significantly large numbers of people (watching) and there is quite a big difference.

“This was not a decision we took lightly but the idea of the green belt is to stop urban sprawl.

“Within the rules there can be exemptions for outdoor sport. It is still a playing field and if it is doing a social good like community sport then there is that provision.”

Put to him that there had been a perceived preference for the hockey club, Cllr Louis replied: “I can understand people might think that but it is not true.

“The football club has quite a good relationship with the Labour party in Worcester. The hockey club has been successful in trying to create a reasonable relationship with all political parties on the city council.

“I am not a sports person myself but you look at what is being put in front of you for a decision and apply common sense, reasoning and understanding of the situation.

“The hockey club has worked very closely with the city council and built up a case over a period of years, it hasn’t suddenly come out of the blue and they have been successful.

“The football club has suffered for many years with differences of opinion between the trust and (club) directors going in different directions.

“Now there is an opportunity because they have come together, it is probably easier to talk to them.

“As the Green Party we could have been consistent and said no to the hockey club as well but I don’t think that would have been right.

“The hockey club was able to allay our fears on a number of fronts, public opposition, spectators and so on. We looked at the information and made a decision accordingly.”