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Extra £2m costs claims for Monks Lane Sports Hub in Newbury

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Claims that the proposed Monks Lane Sports Hub in Newbury will cost an extra £2m have been brushed aside by West Berkshire Council.

It is proposing to shift sports provision to the town’s rugby club, incurring leasing fees over a 40-year term as well as building and maintenance costs.

The council’s executive committee was grilled over different costs relating to both Monks Lane and the Faraday Road site at a recent meeting.

“I have worked out that over a 40-year lease based on a two per cent interest rate, that will add another £2m to the already estimated £10m for the Monks Lane Sports Hub, which takes it from £10 to £12m. Are you aware of this huge cost associated with Monks Lane?” questioned Paul Morgan of the Newbury Community Football Group.

Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn), portfolio holder for leisure, responded saying: “I think you have to appreciate this is over a 40-year period. We are committed to our playing pitch strategy and producing a further eight grass pitches and this is a necessary one of those eight. They cost. There is no getting away from it.”

He said the only capital costs during the lease would be the replacement of the pitch every 10 years, adding that Sport England has recommended allowing £35,000 a year for this at a total cost over the 40 years of £1.05m

“The amount the council borrows is subject to commercial confidentiality,” he added. “The capital items it will cover are the pavilion, changing rooms, public toilets and social areas as well as the 3G artificial pitch, fencing, stands and floodlighting and 52 car parking spaces.

“The cash will be borrowed at a fixed annuity rate over 40 years of 1.93 per cent. The principal sum will be repaid during the 40-year term.”

Newbury town councillor Vaughan Miller (Lib Dem, Eastfields), wanted to know the total costs of preparation of Faraday Road football ground to be reopened as a recreation pitch, including demolition of the burnt down clubhouse, removal of fences, site clearance and resurfacing works.

He was told that the total was £115,000, including £22,000 for demolition work after a fire which destroyed it earlier this year.

He was also told that figure included £630 caused by delays after protestors attended the site on November 4, trying to halt the removal of the fences on safety and ecological grounds. Mr Miller was one of the protesters.

The executive committee was further questioned on costs, with John Gotelee asking what the council estimated would be the financial consequences to the taxpayer of failure to be able to build houses and flats on the Faraday Road pitch.

Ross Mackinnon (Con, Bradfield), portfolio holder for finance and economic development, said: “The financial contribution of the overall scheme will depend on the amount of residential development that can be delivered and that will have to be defined by the statutory planning process.”

Asked if it would be better to abandon any plans for regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate and just reinstate the clubhouse and football pitch, Mr Mackinnon said: “The council remains committed to both the regeneration of the LRIE and football provision in West Berkshire, which is why it has commissioned a development brief and environmental impact assessment and submitted a planning application for a new sports hub at Newbury Rugby Club.”

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