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Return of football to Faraday Road in Newbury is a 'no brainer'

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Faraday Road football ground (46329930)
Faraday Road football ground (46329930)

NEWBURY Community Football Group (NCFG) has put forward plans to return football to Faraday Road until a replacement ground is built.

As reported in the Newbury Weekly News, the ruling Conservative party at West Berkshire Council plan to demolish the dilapidated clubhouse, create 123 more car parking spaces and turn the ground into a recreational open space at a cost of £191,000, until development can begin to turn the site into flats.

However, the community football group has submitted a “compelling” proposal to the council to return football to the site until a replacement sports facility can be opened – and at a cost it estimates of just £27,000.

Under the plans, the clubhouse would be fenced off, other on site structures dismantled and removed, temporary toilets and a spectator barrier put up, as well as full-size football goals installed.

Ownership would remain with the district council but management of the facility would pass over to either the NCFG or any other volunteer group.

A provisional ending date of March 2022 – when the council hopes to open a replacement sports facility at Newbury Rugby Club on Monks Lane – has been set, with items that have been bought for the temporary project either sold or reused at the new site.

NCFG chairman Paul Morgan said the decision was a "no-brainer" for the council.

He said: “There’s no need to demolish the clubhouse, the structure’s fine.

“There’s an issue with bats in there, so we’re saying just fence it off and make it secure so people can’t get in, and reopen the ground.

“Reopen it for what people want to use it for, which is organised sport.

“There’s a desperate need for it post-Covid as we all know, and it makes commercial sense.

“The £191,000 they’ve budgeted to add 123 new car parking spaces, which no one wants anyway, is a total waste of money.

“This is a no-brainer, and it’s for something people want.

“All we ask is for them to open the ground up and we’ll take care of the rest.”

The district and town council Liberal Democrats have already thrown their weight behind the plans.

The WBC Liberal Democrat group leader Lee Dillon (Thatcham North East) said: “The NCFG proposal clearly shows how WBC can increase the value to the community while saving £164,000.

“It’s a no-brainer, especially when they’ve already wasted £1 million on the LRIE development.”

Town council leader Martin Colston (Lib Dem, West Fields) added: “We continue to support keeping the football community in the heart of Newbury where it belongs.

“Let’s get the ground re-opened and used for football at least until a suitable like-for-like replacement has been built.”

However the suggestion has already been quashed by West Berkshire Council, with executive member for leisure and culture Howard Woollaston saying the proposals weren’t “in touch with reality”.

He said: “I have looked again at the proposals from NCFG and they frankly don’t add up.

“These proposals do not save money for West Berkshire Council taxpayers.

“Instead they leave unresolved existing on-going cost liabilities in respect of structures that represent a major health and safety risk and extinguish an opportunity for the council to generate some income over the next three years to fund the maintenance of the proposed open space facility.

“Whatever interim use is made of the old grass pitch, existing buildings and poor fencing cannot be left in situ and it is not sensible or practical to leave these structures while the old grass pitch is reused.”

Mr Woollaston added that the £70,000 earmarked for the new parking spaces would be recouped by the council through pay-and-display income over the next three years, and that the NCFG’s estimated £27,000 cost for reopening the ground for football was £9,000 lower than what would be needed.

He added: “The NCFG proposals backed by the Liberal Democrats and Newbury Town Council are just not in touch with reality.”

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