FAVERSHAM is set to be put on the sporting map with a state-of-the-art football pitch costing more than half a million pounds.
Hundreds of aspiring sports stars will benefit from the all-weather artificial pitch at the Abbey School, which has been given the go-ahead after a £390,000 boost from sporting charity the Football Foundation.
Now, after three years of fundraising, work is finally expected to kick off, with an official opening planned for the summer.
Faversham MP Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and Olympics, said: "In Olympics year, this is a fantastic new sports facility for Faversham in general and the Abbey School in particular. It is the culmination of many years of hard work and I would like to congratulate The Abbey School and thank the Football Foundation for their support and generosity."
The £632,000 high-tech surface imitates a highly maintained grass pitch without the risk of surface flooding. It attracted funding from Bensted Charity, Queenborough Charity Trust and Kent County Council.
The pitch will be used by Abbey School's Football Academy and will be available to local primary schools, Faversham Strike Force and Faversham Town Youth and Juniors FC, and wider community.
Director of sport at the Abbey School, Simon Finlan, added: "We haven't seen something like this come to Faversham for many years, probably since the swimming pools. The pitch is the same spec, maybe higher, than Kent University so it will be the best one around.
"It is not just for students, it's for the community."
And staff are hoping the surface will enable more sporting successes, after two students at the school's Football Academy's – 18-year-olds Tom Axford and Lloyd Harrington – were selected for the England Schoolboy Internationals side earlier this year.
The pair will represent their country against the home nations in stadiums such as Newcastle's St James' Park, and Belfast's Windsor Park, with two matches to be televised live on Sky Sports.
Lloyd said: "We are excited about the new pitch because it will give us an opportunity to play all through the season and is nice and flat so we won't have to worry about bobbles anymore."
Head teacher Catrin Woodend said she was delighted all the school's hard work on the project had finally come to fruition, adding: "The Abbey School has always maintained that Faversham has had a raw deal where sporting facilities are concerned and we saw it as our duty to redress this balance."