Controversial rubber crumb to be used in Wellingborough's new 3G pitch

The new pitch will use rubber crumb after alternatives proved more expensive.
The new pitch will use rubber crumb after alternatives proved more expensive.

A new 3G pitch in Wellingborough will use controversial rubber crumb despite growing concerns over the safety of the material.

Work has started on the sports facility on a field attached to the Redwell centre off Barnwell Road and the pitch is set to open in September in time for the new football season.

However, rather than use a cork alternative to fill the pitch, ground-up old car and truck tyres will be used alongside artificial grass.

There have been growing concerns about the possible health impact of the rubber material, which has been banned in Holland, but is still being used in the UK.

The council, which received a £438,575 grant from the Football Association's charity, the Football Foundation, to fund the pitch, says it explored the possibility of using a cork alternative, which was a condition of planning permission, but it would have been more expensive.

A spokesman said: “The Football Foundation and Borough Council of Wellingborough Planning Department held discussions to review which material would be most suitable for the 3G pitch at Redwell Leisure Centre, and resolved that rubber crumb was the most sustainable and appropriate material to use.

“The council’s project team worked with consultants to review the materials which were proposed to be used for the 3G pitch and assess the alternative materials which are available. The report of which was presented to and approved by the council’s planning department.

“After carrying out a comprehensive review it was deemed that costs for alternative materials varied between £50,000 and £100,000.”

The council also provided a statement from the Football Foundation which said: “Concerns have, however, been raised about the safety associated with these pitches and their constituent parts, most commonly the presence of rubber crumb. We take these concerns very seriously.

“We have monitored numerous independent scientific studies on this issue, which have reported a very low/negligible level of concern for human health as a result of 3G pitches and rubber crumb.

“Indeed, the European Chemicals Agency has recently published its own findings, following an extensive EU-wide study, and has found no reason to advise people against playing sport on 3G pitches with rubber crumb.

“The Sports and Play Construction Association, the UK trade body for the sports pitch industry, is developing a voluntary industry standard that will provide minimum requirements that go above and beyond what is currently required for rubber crumb under European regulation.

“Sport England and leading sport governing bodies all support this approach and will continue to work with the industry to provide reassurance that pitches in this country are safe.”

A local concerned grandparent, who did not wish to be named, and was one of many residents who spoke out against the new pitch at a planning meeting last summer, said she is horrified at the use of the material.

She said: “Two years ago I had no idea about the concerns over rubber crumb, but I then came across some newspaper reports and the more I read, the more I became concerned.

“This is a big, big, thing and I think it will soon become a worldwide scandal.”

Last month the internal auditors at Kettering Council told the authority that they were keeping a watching brief on the scientific findings on pitches using rubber crumb, after the health and safety aspect was flagged up by some councillors.

Kettering borough has four rubber crumb pitches at Kettering Buccleuch Academy, Montsaye Academy, Kettering Science Academy and Desborough Leisure Centre.

Nigel Maquire, the father of Darlington footballer Lewis Maquire, 20, who died in March last year from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, has called for a review into rubber crumb pitches as he believes his son’s cancer may have been caused by chemicals contained in the rubber crumb.

A total of 20,000 shredded tyres are used on each pitch. The fears come from the fact the substance contains a number of toxic chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mercury, lead and arsenic in higher concentrations than other substances.