A DEAL to rent out playing fields in Dudley has been slammed by a neighbouring school which claims it has been ignored by the council.

Gornal Athletic Football Club has agreed to take over Burton Road playing fields from Dudley Council under a 25-year lease which would, subject to planning permission, see up to 21 pitches and a variety of other facilities being created on the site.

The deal has been criticised by nearby Bishop Milner Catholic College which has used the field for 25 years and says there was no communication from the authority when it was put on the market for lease.

In a joint statement, Helen Parkes, CEO of the St John Bosco Multi Academy Company (MAC) and  Siobhan Foster, head of Bishop Milner, said: “The school is in the process of arranging a meeting with Gornal Athletic whose efforts to reach out and discuss the matter have been most welcome. 

“While we remain disappointed with the lack of communication to date from Dudley MBC we remain open and willing to liaise with all key stakeholders in resolving this matter.”

A letter to councillors from the school after the Gornal FC deal was announced said: “Communication on this matter has been sporadic. The school became aware that the land was being offered for lease in July 2023, having received no communication from the local authority since December 2021.  

“We teach our children the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, dignity, rights and responsibilities and fundamental British values.  

“How the school has been treated and the complete lack of recognition of the impact this will have on our children flies in the face of what we teach and believe.”

The MAC does however concede it is yet to take up the offer of a meeting with Dudley Council leader, Cllr Patrick Harley who said: “I emailed them a week ago and have not had the courtesy of a reply.

“This is a great opportunity for all the schools in the vicinity, Gornal will make it into a facility that currently we don’t have.

“The council doesn’t have the funding to do this, at the moment there are two grass pitches, the new facilities will be all-weather and available to the whole community.”

Castle and Priory ward councillor Karl Denning waded into the row calling for the deal with Gornal to be halted while more public consultation takes place.

Cllr Denning said: “It needs looking at properly, we shouldn’t be giving away our green spaces.

“If you throw it away you never get it back. It was a God-send during Covid, it became a proper focus for the community.

“I have been asking questions since I was elected and never had any correct information, it has been kept away from the ward councillors.”

Cllr Harley dismissed Cllr Denning’s concerns, he said: “This is not about giving away community space, we are trying to make use of what we have got and allow someone a long-term lease to enhance the facilities.

“Gornal was the second preferred bidder, the first one fell through.

“There has to be commercial sensitivity, there isn’t an organisation in the world that has a committee meeting about commercial arrangements.”