A FOOTBALL club is hoping to expand as work begins to replace a section of tennis courts in a park with a new 3G football pitch.

The transformation of some of the courts in Hove Park into a new artificial grass surface for footballers started yesterday, despite tennis players campaigning to save the courts.

Five of the 12 courts, used by Hove Park Tennis Club and other residents, will be replaced with the new pitch made out of recycled tyres – a surface that is unsuitable for tennis.

Mark Sessions, chairman of Hove Park Colts Football Club, which is aiming to grow as a result of the development, said: “We are delighted that we have got the 3G pitch.

“What I would like to see is it get as much community use as possible.

“I am sure that it will get lots of use.

“I would like to think it will be open to the rest of the community too. It is about how it is managed.

“What I don’t want to see is a monopoly over the pitch.

“The kids and managers at the club are so chuffed about it.”

The club’s 15 teams for under sevens to under 16s are currently training at different locations. The new pitch gives them the chance to train closer to home.

Mr Sessions said: “What we are trying to do is have a base and it is really important we have that facility.

“We are looking to start a girls’ team too.

“We want to expand the club and don’t want it to be limited.”

The development is being funded from Section 106 contributions, money paid to Brighton and Hove City Council by developers as part of planning arrangements.

Hove Park Tennis Alliance campaigned to save the courts and requested that an all-weather surface be added so that the pitch could be used for other sports and activities.

The alliance previously said it has shared the surface with football clubs without any issues for 27 of the 30 years its players have been using the courts.

Reacting to work starting on the new pitch, Neil Dickson, of Hove Park Tennis Alliance, said: “It’s a shame. We did our best to keep the area as a dual purpose facility.

“The demand for tennis courts in Hove Park is still great.

“We will look to get the council to help take care of the seven remaining courts.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The new 3G football pitch will provide a fantastic year-round sports facility for footballers of all ages living in the area around Hove Park.”

The new pitch is expected to be completed in April.