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Costs of Monks Lane sports hub revealed as West Berkshire Council prepares to change pitch plan

The Monks Lane Sports Hub has cost council tax payers in West Berkshire nearly £220k – before it has even been built.

And that cash could go down the pan if the Lib Dem administration fulfils its pledge to stop the proposals pushed through and approved by the Tories before they lost control of the council in May’s elections.

The Lib Dems have promised to return football to Faraday Road
The Lib Dems have promised to return football to Faraday Road

A decision will be made at this Thursday’s executive committee.

The new administration wants to cancel the deal, and hire more consultants to provide information on where playing pitches are needed in the district.

If the scheme does not progress, the budget allocation for the scheme – around £3.85m – can be allocated to other priorities or withdrawn entirely.

But, there would be a cost to the revenue budget of any abortive costs incurred on the project.

Alliance Leisure Services was appointed to oversee the design and construction of the Sports Hub project and appoint designers and contractors accordingly.

A pre-construction agreement has been signed and the works have already cost £126,500.

No contractual agreements have been signed in relation to the construction phase of the project.

Legal fees have racked up to £46,802.90, plus another £33k defending the Judicial Review brought by a Newbury resident.

The sports hub was to be based at Newbury Rugby Club
The sports hub was to be based at Newbury Rugby Club

The council got £11k in fees recovered from Alan Pearce, who tried to stop the scheme in court claiming the planning process was flawed. But he lost.

Planning permission was granted by West Berkshire Council in March 2022, but development of the site was paused subject to the outcome of the legal challenge.

The rugby club, which stood to make £41,000 a year rent for 40 years from West Berkshire Council says it will now have to look for other ways to keep the wolf from the door.

It will cost between £5k-£10k to legally unwrap the sports hub contract already agreed with them.

The council said it now wants to investigate all the options for sports pitches in West Berkshire before making a decision on what happens at Monks Lane.

A review of demand and supply for sports pitches has shown an increase of 38 teams in West Berkshire between 2018 and 2022, while the supply of sports pitches has remained largely static.

The number of women’s teams has grown by seven, and the number of adult teams by 14.

There has been an increase in the number of teams that are traveling to access sports pitches outside of West Berkshire with this figure now reaching 59 teams.

The sports hub plans included building a 3G artificial pitch and stadium that was to be developed to meet the FA ground grading Step 4 standard.

A 3G pitch could provide 70-80 hours of use for football training and matches each week, compared to a grass pitch which typically accommodates six-eight hours per week.

The new consultants are expected to report back within six months.

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