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Is it in the back of the net? Monks Lane Sports Hub proposal

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The proposed Sports Hub at Monks Lane is likely to get the go ahead this week.

West Berkshire Council’s own planning application for the controversial football shift to Newbury Rugby Club is recommended for approval.

It comes just weeks after the council approved planning permission for another clubhouse at the Faraday Road site, despite the applicant - one of the objectors to Monks Lane - not owning the site.

The proposed development at Monks Lane has been faced with fierce opposition from those behind the push for the Faraday Road area being kept on as a football pitch.

They say it will cost the council tax payer around £12m over a 40-year lease period. According to the council’s own business plan, it will cost £41,000 a year to rent and maintain, plus a £25,000-a-year sinking fund for a new pitch every 10 years.

The business plan also shows an annual loss, which the council has also proposed to stump up for, to the tune of around £90,000 a year. There are unconfirmed reports of a six-figure down payment to the rugby club on the lease.

Newbury Town Council and Greenham Parish Council are among 32 objections. They object to the scheme based on inadequate parking; there are 51 parking spaces allocated.

Local residents say they will be inundated with traffic and people trying to park on match days, arguing that the current rugby club car park is already inadequate.

A condition has been recommended that no football and rugby matches can take place on the same day at the site. This would ensure that any overflow parking at the rugby club is made available for all home football matches.

But the highways team has recommended parking surveys be carried out to help inform any potential parking restrictions. Otherwise they say there is no impact.

A key objection is that the pitch is not a like-for-like replacement for Faraday Road.

Newbury Football Club is pro the scheme, whereas the Newbury Community Football Group is not. It argues the move goes against the council’s own playing pitch strategy, which is already seven football pitches short of requirement in the district.

Faraday Road, which saw the clubhouse burned down this summer, is currently being turned into an all-purpose sports area.

Councillors on the western area planning committee were due to debate the plans for the 400 sq m building and car parking as this paper went to press last night (Wednesday).

If approved, the site will also see a new 3G pitch – complete with underlying shock pad – operate for 51 weeks of the year.

A spectator seating area is proposed to the north of the pitch, with storage facilities proposed in the form of a shipping container located behind the spectator stand.

The council has also talked Sport England around from objecting to the scheme, stating in consultation that the money might be better spent on community football.

In a submitted joint statement, West Berkshire Council and Sport England outlined that they were jointly supporting the development of proposals at Newbury Rugby Club as ‘an enhanced replacement to meet the community’s needs for Faraday Road stadium’.

The council would be required to deliver a new grass pitch within two years of the completion of the Newbury Rugby Club development.

This is to offset the loss of the grass pitch at the rugby club to accommodate the Sports Hub proposals.

West Berkshire Council also confirmed that a redevelopment of the Faraday Road stadium will not commence until the completion of the proposed facilities at Newbury Rugby Club.

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