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Newbury Rugby Club ‘frustrated’ by Monks Lane Sports Hub canning

The Monks Lane Sports hub plans have been canned.

The official decision to bin the multi-million pound proposal for a new pitch and stand at the Newbury Club site will be made when West Berkshire Council’s executive committee meets in November.

The Monks Lane Sports hub plans have been canned
The Monks Lane Sports hub plans have been canned

The rugby club, which stood to make £41,000 a year rent for 40 years from West Berkshire Council – or £4.4m over the term – says it will now have to look for other ways to keep the wolf from the door.

In a letter to its members this week, president David Jones wrote: “As you may recall we started negotiations on this three and a half years ago when we were approached by WBC to put an all weather pitch multi-use facility on Pitch 5.

“We entered discussions in order to preserve the sustainability of NRFC which was in a difficult financial position at the time.

“Terms were agreed and all the legal work had been completed ready for signature. Due to a very protracted legal appeal process and then a change in political leadership at the council this was not affected.

“Clearly we cannot rely on any future support from the council.

“Frustrating is an understatement. Three and a half wasted years for the club in terms of its financial security and a complete lack of awareness of the huge role the club plays in the community in and out of sport.

“I had hoped the council would be able to see beyond a single pitch primarily for the use of football and look at the benefits for the whole community.”

The change in political leadership from Conservative to Liberal Democrats always sounded the death knell for the plans, with the Lib Dems pledging to ditch the scheme, which campaigners against it claimed would cost the council tax payer more than £12m.

Lee Dillon, West Berkshire Council’s Lib Dem leader, has met with the club to spell the situation out.

But he has left the back door open to future negotiations.

“We are commissioning a new playing pitch strategy for the district,” he said.

“This means we will engage consultants to map out where in the community we need to put the extra playing pitches we need.

“If that evidence points to a need in the Monks Lane area then we will still want to talk with the club about this. But we want to see what the community need is before we commit to anything.”

The final knock on the head for the current Monks Lane plans will happen in November and there will be a six month period of consultation and evidence gathering before the new playing pitch strategy will be discussed.

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