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Newbury's Sports Hub past the final hurdle

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The new Monks Lane Sports Hub at Newbury Rugby Club has finally been approved.

Last-ditch legal efforts by campaigners wanting football to stay at Faraday Road in the town centre failed to stop the move, which was heralded as ‘a shining light’ for local sport by supporters.

Objectors claimed West Berkshire Council’s planning process was flawed, and have made multiple claims that the costs of between £11.3m and £15m are not good use of tax payers' money.

The Monks Lane plans
The Monks Lane plans

They claim seven pitches could be made for the money. The council’s own playing pitch strategy shows a deficit of 27 adult football pitches in West Berkshire.

But for the first time, supporters of the scheme publicly spoke up.

“I am not a member of any lobby group. For nearly 30 years I was head of Kennet School and Trinity and five primary schools,” said Paul Dick.

Paul Dick (55227785)
Paul Dick (55227785)

"The thing that drove me was the power of sport. It is not to be underestimated. I am a senior county referee too.

"Locally we are failing to provide the opportunity to allow our young people to be aspirational.

"In Slough they built a similar facility, and it is now becoming a centre of excellence and something that underpins their future.

“Well done you for bringing forward this aspirational project for our young people. It looks superb.

The new sports hub at Newbury Rugby Club. (50575610)
The new sports hub at Newbury Rugby Club. (50575610)

"I am chairman of Thatcham ladies and girls football club and we already train at the rugby club and I am convinced this synergy works well.”

When asked if the money would be better spent on more pitches, he said: “Put something shining in the middle. This would give a big boost to the sporting community and I think the rest will follow.”

Mr Dick stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the Clay Hill ward by-election for Newbury Town Council last year.

Newbury Town Council also objected to the move.

Monks Lane (53691245)
Monks Lane (53691245)

“You are going through planning gymnastics to avoid proper planning scrutiny of the real intent for this application and thus denying the council as a planning authority the opportunity to test the application as a replacement for Faraday Road,” said councillor Vaughan Miller (Lib Dem).

“There can be no doubt that the design and cost of this planning application and the subsequent build is to absolutely deliver a replacement for the Faraday Road football stadium.

“We request that you stop trying to deceive the public, reject this application, and bring it back for approval as a replacement for Faraday Road stadium, or change the application and bring forward purely as an AGP, contributing to meet one of the seven artificial grass pitches required in the council’s playing pitch strategy.”

Newbury Football Club, which will now make Monks Lane its new home, currently plays in a Step 6 level of the league – but higher level Step 4 is being built at Monks Lane.

The ground will have a new clubhouse with four changing rooms and a stand for 50 spectators.

Debate centred around whether the ground was big enough, or had enough parking, to fit in the 1,300 spectators expected at a Step 4 facility.

The split decision at last night’s district planning committee went in favour of the controversial plans, with the committee’s chairman using his casting vote.

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