A former mayor has admitted to being one of the neighbors that complained to a cricket club about balls landing in back gardens – that resulted in a ban on adults from playing on its ground.
Colehill Cricket Club, near Wimborne, Dorset, was established in 1905 and has been at the heart of the rural community for decades.
However, following complaints from residents close to the ground about balls being hit for six into their properties, the club has taken the decision to halt all adult matches.
Now Kelly Webb, who was mayor of Wimborne in 2019 and in 2022, told The Times that she was one of the complainants – but insisted that she offered to help pay for the netting on her side of the pitch.
Webb, who bought her house in 2014, said: “I was talking to the cricket club last year and offered to help pay for the fence as 95% of the time they play, balls end up in our garden, front and back.”
She insisted her previous dealings with the club had been “cordial” but hadn’t heard anything since April 2022.
Youth cricket has been allowed to continue on the basis that boys and girls cannot hit a six as far.
After investigating whether it was possible to erect a 26ft high fence to block the balls at a cost of £15,000, the club’s committee decided to close the ground to adults.
But an online petition started by club captain George Taylor to “save cricket in Colehill” has already garnered more than 16,000 signatures.
Taylor, a 26-year-old chartered accountant, said: “When the land was gifted to the club in the early 20th century, there was a covenant stating cricket had to be played there.
“I’ve been playing here for 14 years and have never known a serious issue with balls.”
He said the club had tried various measures to appease neighbours, including ejecting batters who hit the ball to that side of the boundary.
“We didn’t play there last year because we were hugely unhappy with that rule,” said Taylor. “It was ridiculous. We went to the bottom of the league because of all the trials and tribulations.
“Then the committee applied for planning permission to build a big fence on that side of the ground. It just wasn’t practical – it’s health and safety gone mad.
“When they decided to suspend adult cricket, there was no forum or debate – they didn’t give any of us members notice.”
After receiving thousands of signatures, he said: “It really resonates with public opinion that this ‘not in my back yard’ mentality is taking over.
“There’s no other cricket club in Colehill. If the door is closed it will be a slow death for that community.”
A spokesperson for the Colehill Sports & Social Club committee said they had made the decision to ban adult cricket “with a heavy heart”.
In a statement, they said: “In recent years it has become apparent that the risks of ball strikes at Colehill were increasing and that we need to take action to mitigate the risks involved.
“A ground of our size relies on having understanding neighbors who are prepared to accept the occasional inconvenience and want to embrace living next to a cricket ground.
“We have many neighbors who follow this mantra, but we are also encountering those who want to adopt a ‘compensation culture’.
“Our insurance premiums have more than trebled in the last three years and it is becoming more difficult to source the type of insurance we need.”
It is thought at least two neighbors have complained about balls landing on their property.
One neighbor who lives on the opposite side of the ground said her roof was damaged by a flying ball about six months ago.
The pensioner, who asked not to be named, said: “I have lived here for 30 years and never had an issue until recently. A ball damaged my roof which the club said they would pay for but I didn’t hear anything.”