Glenafton Athletic have been given help to pay for pitch maintenance at Loch Park - despite council officials saying that the club's request should be turned down.

Officers from East Ayrshire Council (EAC) had recommended refusal of the application to Afton Renewable Energy Fund (REF) for £10,746 as that work is an annual running cost incurred by all clubs, and failed to meet criteria for the fund.

But councillors on the authority's grants committee decided to provide support as the club had provided information about its future plans for a 4G pitch to allow greater community use of their facilities.

Glens had also told the council that they would be in a position to pay £3,000 of the maintenance costs.

The committee said other clubs who come forward with a similar plan, and who are engaged with the council’s sports development team, could seek similar support.

Glenafton have been encouraging more community use of their Loch Park facilities, but indicated that the level of use, and resulting higher maintenance costs, could put this involvement at risk.

The club had received £95,000 in REF funds last June to install floodlights and carry out pitch works.

The report stated: “The floodlights were essential to support SFA accreditation to allow the park to be used more often by the wider community in the evenings and winter months.”

The football club is now an active partner of the New Cumnock Sports Forum, established by the New Cumnock Development Trust to encourage local sports groups to work together to develop sporting activities within the village.

The report continued: “There has been a significant move towards engaging and working in partnership with other local sports groups and community organisations and positive feedback was given on the development of Loch Park as a multi-use community asset.

“Discussions are currently being undertaken with the Sports Development team and Sportscotland regarding funding for a synthetic pitch.

“Whilst the use of Loch Park as a community venue is very positive, annual pitch maintenance is a standard recurring running cost of all league football teams.

“It is therefore not eligible for continued support from the Renewable Energy Fund.”

Provost Jim Todd, chairing the committee, asked officers whether there could be a relaxation of the criteria given the club’s ongoing efforts to install a 4G pitch.

There was also a display of solidarity from councillors, despite the local football rivalry in the area.

Cumnock and New Cumnock councillor June Kyle (Labour) backed the application.

She said: “They really are working hard with the community and trying to involve young people.

“I understand the rules are the rules, but I think it given a wee bit of consideration. And that is from a Cumnock supporter."

Depute provost Claire Leitch (SNP, Ballochmyle) also backed the plan, citing the club’s work with young people and diversionary activities.

She added jokingly: “Maintenance costs aren’t ever going to give them an advantage over Auchinleck Talbot.”

Councillor Neal Ingram (SNP, Kilmarnock East and Hurlford) said: “The football club is a big part of the local community and they do allow people to use the park for nothing.

“I agree about not setting a precedent. They are moving towards something bigger and are mindful of wanting to keep community participation going.”

The committee agreed to give the club a one off grant of £7,746.

Councillor Lillian Jones (Labour, Kilmarnock West and Crosshouse) emphasised that the council would make it clear to the club that this would be a one-off payment.

A committee officer suggested that the decision lay with the committee, but indicated that it would likely be two or three years before work would be carried out.

For other clubs, similar support would require agreement and engagement with the council’s sports development team.