30 May 2024

Council reaffirms decision not to rename playing fields

by Rebecca Hannant

Withernsea Town Council has reaffirmed its decision not to rename the Hull Road playing fields in memory of a local football stalwart despite residents’ overwhelming support of the idea.

Since 2020, the family of Withernsea AFC “legend” Frank Windas have been calling to rename the playing fields after him. However, despite strong support from the town and the club’s supporters, the town council continued to decline the idea on the grounds that it does not want to set a precedent.

The town council’s plans to rename the playing fields after King Charles to mark the Coronation faced opposition from the club and Withernsea residents who argued that the monarch had nothing to do with the grounds and the field would be best named after someone local.

In a bid to overturn the decision, Frank’s daughter Carron Windas Durkin set up two petitions and the motion was discussed again at a town council meeting on June 12.

In a letter to Withernsea Town Council submitted ahead of the meeting, the chairman of Withernsea AFC said: “The decision to rename the field, as is the council privilege, was met with unanimous opposition from the public, and internally within the club. The opposition stemmed from the request in 2020 to rename HRPF to the Frank Windas Memorial Playing Fields which was rejected by the council over Zoom.

“Frank was a fantastic ambassador for the club, a volunteer in so many ways and a key contributor to ensuring the town gave young men and women a safe space to play sport.

“While setting a precedent was the main barrier to the requested gesture, the club feels that there should be a precedent set. The town should try to reward its heroes. The town should recognise great contributions and make a fuss of them, remember them forever, letting their name inspire the next generation of volunteers. If setting a precedent is the concern, can the council work to create what constitutes a local hero, what level of effort deserves commemorating?

“Frank gave 55 years of service to the local community; he was recognised posthumously by the Football Association for his endeavours. He was renowned throughout the whole town as he touched so many lives. We think this would be a great precedent to set.”

Despite the club president sending the letter to the council, Carron said it was not read out at the meeting.

The council also raised concerns over the validity of the petition according to its petition policy.

A spokesperson said: “The petition was received and checked for its validity. It was not completely valid in that it wasn’t fully in accordance with the council’s petitions policy. Guidance was given before the petition was undertaken. Some of the signatures are non- Withernsea residents.

“Petitions signed partly or completely by non- Withernsea residents don’t have the influence over council policy that ones signed only by residents will have. The 470 names collected via a Facebook petition were invalid as no addresses were supplied, which is a requirement.”

However, the family claims that the petitions were fully checked and validated according to council policy prior to the meeting.

Following the process, Withernsea Town Council voted against the renaming of the field. Six out of the nine councillors voted against the proposal, with the remaining three not present at the meeting.

They said: “The reason remains as stated in the first place – the town council doesn’t call any public asset after an individual of the town as there’s too many to name who have done great things for the town over the years. It wouldn’t be fair, and it could cause upset to other families.

“The council felt under the circumstances it would be best to leave it as it was and not name it after anyone. The council did, once again, suggest an alternative to the Windas family, that the football pavilion, which is owned by the football club, would be suitable.

“A petition alone will not be sufficient to change policy or introduce new policies as it is only one means of consultation; however, it can be used as an indicator for future policies on local service provision.”

At the meeting, councillors also decided that they would not go ahead with their decision to rename the playing fields after King Charles, which will continue to be named Hull Road Playing Field. However, despite this, a mystery individual has changed the name of the field on Google Maps to the Frank Windas Memorial Football Ground.

The Withernsea AFC committee will now consider changing the name of the pavilion in his memory.