A SPORTS body has objected to plans to replace and upgrade a York athletics track, saying it would make hockey teams homeless.

City of York Council dropped proposals to build a new athletics base at the York Sport Village in Heslington last year and chose to improve existing facilities at the University of York’s Heslington West campus instead. The authority said this would allow it to be ready sooner and save money.

A planning application has been submitted for the scheme, which would provide a new home for City of York Athletic Club, but Sport England has opposed it because an artificial pitch at the university site would be grassed over.

In its objection, the organisation quoted England Hockey’s view that university hockey teams would not have a home ground under the current proposals and, as the university was looking to “rejuvenate” the sport on its campus, it must have an “appropriate” hockey pitch.

England Hockey’s statement to Sport England said City of York Hockey Club, Yorkshire’s largest, may move to Heslington West in future, and turning the all-weather turf into a grass surface would be “a loss to hockey in the city”.

Sport England opposes any development which leads to the loss of, or hampers the use of, all or part of a playing field. In a letter to council planners, it said it supported upgrading the university athletics track as it “offers the potential to maximise its use by students and the local community”.

However, it also said: “The application does not detail the provision of a replacement artificial turf pitch suitable for hockey. The proposal, as currently detailed, results in the loss of an artificial turf pitch, which is clearly detrimental to the development of hockey in York.”

The organisation said if the council approves the current scheme, it should be referred to the Government, but it would lift the objection if a replacement artificial pitch was provided at the same time as the university surface is altered.

The current athletics base at Huntington Stadium is due to be demolished to make way for a new community stadium. The council said the switch of sites for the athletics facility prevented community stadium project costs increasing, and the Heslington West track will be better-quality and have a field events area.