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Monks Lane cash deal agreed behind closed doors

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Newbury Rugby Club is to get a £240,000 down payment from West Berkshire Council, in addition to £41,000 a year rent to use one of its Monks Lane pitches for football.

Leaked council documents reveal behind-the-scenes negotiations with the club, which have been kept from both the press and the public.

The lease premium was approved behind closed doors by the council’s executive committee in April to reduce the fee of £50,000 a year originally demanded by the rugby club.

An additional £220,000 was also agreed to be spent from council coffers to build the proposed clubhouse.

The document says; “Whilst this additional capital investment brings wider benefits to the local community, it has enabled the council to negotiate more favourable terms on the lease and lower revenue costs.”

The proposed Sports Hub development at Monks Lane has faced fierce opposition from those behind the push to keep the Faraday Road site at the London Road Industrial Estate as a football pitch.

They say it will cost the council tax payer around £12m over a 40-year lease period.

According to the council’s own business plan, which is in the public domain, annual running costs of £180,000 a year include £41,000 a year to rent, plus a £25,000-a-year sinking fund for a new pitch every 10 years.

The business plan also shows an annual loss, which the council has also proposed to stump up for, to the tune of around £90,000 a year.

West Berkshire Council’s own planning application for the controversial football shift to Newbury Rugby Club is recommended for approval this Wednesday evening.

It comes just weeks after the council approved planning permission for another clubhouse at the Faraday Road site, despite the applicant – one of the objectors to Monks Lane – not owning the site.

Newbury Town Council and Greenham Parish Council are among 32 objectors.

They object to the scheme based on inadequate parking – there are 51 parking spaces allocated.

Local residents say they will be inundated with traffic and people trying to park on match days, arguing that the current rugby club car park is already inadequate.

A condition has been recommended that no football and rugby matches can take place on the same day at the site.

This would ensure that any overflow parking at the rugby club is made available for all home football matches.

Otherwise, the highways team says there is no impact.

A key objection is that the pitch is not a like-for-like replacement for Faraday Road.

Newbury Football Club is in favour of the scheme, whereas the Newbury Community Football Group is not.

It argues the move goes against the council’s own playing pitch strategy, which is already seven football pitches short of requirement in the district.

Faraday Road, which saw the clubhouse burned down this summer, is currently being turned into an all-purpose sports area.

Councillors on the western area planning committee are due to debate the plans for the 400 sq m building and car parking on Wednesday night.

If approved, the site will also see a new 3G pitch – complete with underlying shock pad – operate for 51 weeks of the year.

The council has also talked Sport England around from objecting to the scheme, stating in consultation that the money might be better spent on community football.

In a submitted joint statement, West Berkshire Council and Sport England outlined that they were jointly supporting the development of proposals at Newbury Rugby Club as ‘an enhanced replacement to meet the community’s needs for Faraday Road stadium’.

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