Football stadium bulldozed to make way for housing estate
A famed Lancashire football club's stadium has been bulldozed to make way for a housing estate.
The landlords of Burscough FC, the smallest club ever to win the FA Trophy, have dug up Victoria Park, its home throughout its 75-year history.
The club, which plays in the Premier Division of the North West Counties League – on the ninth tier of English football - is building a replacement ground on land nearby.
West Lancashire Council had insisted work to dismantle the old stadium must not start until the new ground was ready for games to ensure a "seamless transition."
Even though permission was only officially granted last week, foundations for what will be a development of 52 affordable homes have already been laid on what was the 3,000 capacity Victoria Park.
But the new ground is almost complete and the North West Counties League season has now been officially abandoned, meaning football will not return until August.
Plans by site owners Torus Housing and Chequer Properties were given the go-ahead by the council on February 18 despite scores of objections from local residents worried by issues like traffic, flooding and a lack of infrastructure to serve a housing development of that size.
One football fan said: "Skelmersdale lost its football ground in similar circumstances." Another said: "The football ground was gifted to the people of Burscough and shouldn't be demolished."
Sport England said it was satisfied that the replacement ground, to the north of the old stadium, was "adequate in terms of quality, quantity and location."
It added that there needed to be “an enforceable requirement for the replacement football ground to have been constructed and be fit and ready for use prior to any works being undertaken on the existing ground, to ensure that the existing site can continue to be used until the replacement site is ready.
"The key requirement is that the football club have a seamless transition from using the old site to the new without any interruption in the continuity of use for training and match play."
Victoria Park has been home to a Burscough football team for more than 100 years. Burscough Rangers moved there in 1908 and bought a grandstand from Everton FC in 1926.
Burscough FC was founded in 1946 after the Second World War and has played there ever since.
The club has produced some notable footballers over the years including Everton and Wolves striker Michael Branch, Bury's Ryan Lowe, Cardiff City's Craig Noone, Aston Villa defender Shaun Teale, Swansea's Lee Trundle and Preston striker Liam Watson.
Amongst the former Burscough managers are Teale, who led them to their famous FA Trophy win in 2003, and Liverpool and West Ham midfielder Mike Marsh.
It was back in 2007 that the club first recognised its facilities at Victoria Park were "falling far short of modern requirements." It submitted plans to the council to redevelop the stadium.
But, by 2010, the club had fallen into financial difficulties, owing around £800,000, and was forced to offer Victoria Park for sale on the open market to clear its debts and fund a new ground.
It was bought by Torus and the sale will now finance the new stadium, which was given the go-ahead by West Lancashire Council in 2015.