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Newbury Town Council calls on Sport England to object against plans to demolish football ground clubhouse



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Newbury Town Council has called for Sport England to reinstate an “objection” to West Berkshire Council's plans to demolish the Faraday Road football ground clubhouse and convert the site into a recreation space.

It was revealed in a western area planning committee meeting on July 21 that the government body had dropped its opposition to the plans after “several discussions” with West Berkshire Council, during which council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) “outlined the commitment by the council to the Faraday Road stadium replacement site”.

Mrs Doherty also gave Sport England the council’s proposed timetable for work on the site.

The council is proposing to demolish the clubhouse
The council is proposing to demolish the clubhouse

This would involve beginning work to convert the ground into a recreation space this month, opening it in December this year, and opening the new replacement ground in Monks Lane in March next year.

The council also plans to submit an outline planning application for the redevelopment of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) in 2022 and start the work in 2023.

The council is already behind on its plans to convert the ground into a recreation space after a decision on the planning application was deferred until September.

Faraday Road football ground
Faraday Road football ground

The council’s executive member for leisure Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn) added that Sport England “understood what we’re trying to achieve”.

However, in a town council planning and highways meeting on Monday, councillors voted to write to Sport England calling on it to reinstate its opposition to the plans, and accused it of going against its own policy.

Vaughan Miller (Lib Dem, East Fields) said: “It is regrettable that Sport England is facilitating the premature, permanent closure of the ground for football by removing its objection to this application.

“Its own policies require objection to any development taking place before a replacement facility of equal or better quality and quantity is operational.”

The ground has fallen into a state of disrepair.
The ground has fallen into a state of disrepair.

Sport England’s policy states it will oppose planning applications which would lead to the loss of a playing field.

In Faraday Road’s case however, Sport England argues the playing field will remain a playing field, despite the change of use from organised football to recreational football.

Sport England policy also requires “the new stadium to be operational prior to the redevelopment of the whole site”.

However, it is understood from planning documents that redevelopment would involve “the reduction in the grass footprint which forms the playing field”.

A spokesperson for Sport England said: “Proceeding with the redevelopment of Faraday Road sports ground is a decision that is ultimately made by West Berkshire council.

“Sport England’s role is as a statutory consultee, and our role and remit are to protect playing fields.

“The current playing field will remain in use and operational until the new development is finished.

“Sport England has not issued or removed a holding objection for Faraday Road.

“However, we did remove the requirement for a planning agreement (unilateral undertaking).

“This is because we are satisfied that the written statement made by West Berkshire council to Sport England about plans for redevelopment provides major improvements to facilities for the whole community.

“This means that more local people will have the opportunity to get active, try new sports and change their lives through movement.”

West Berkshire Liberal Democrat councillor Tony Vickers (Wash Common) has also written an open letter to Sport England on behalf of the opposition, questioning the timeline laid out by Mrs Doherty to the body.

Mr Vickers said: "We don’t share the aspirations of the ruling group to relocate Newbury’s main football facilities from Faraday Road to Monks Lane.

“Nor do we share their confidence that the timeline set out by Mrs Doherty can be achieved.

“For a start, if demolition were to begin on site in August it would be in breach of planning.

“The demolition could – and in our opinion should – be delayed until an application for the redevelopment of the whole of the LRIE has been granted outline planning consent and any pre-start planning conditions have been discharged."



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