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Newbury Rugby Club identified as preferred site for new sports facility

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West Berkshire Council looking to build Step 6 facility to replace Faraday Road ground

Newbury Rugby Club has been identified as West Berkshire Council's preferred site for a new sports facility in the town.

The council and the club have held preliminary discussions about building the sports facility on part of the Monks Lane site.

The new facility will include a high-quality artificial grass pitch, stadium, floodlights, changing room and function room.

The council aims to open the Step 6 facility, which will be available for community use, in March 2022.

It will replace the Faraday Road sports ground, Newbury Football Club’s home until it was evicted in 2018 for the council to begin regenerating the London Road Industrial Estate.

The ground has sat empty since, and the club has been playing games at Brimpton and Thatcham's Henwick Worthy Sports Ground.

Executive member for leisure and culture Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn) said: “Having spent some time looking for a site for a new sports ground I’m delighted we now have somewhere which could meet the community’s needs.

"It will provide improved sports facilities for local sports groups and will be capable of hosting higher level competitive football and rugby matches, as well as year-round training.

“It is a site for the whole community, for amateur as well as more professional teams and able to be used for a wide variety of sports.

"We want to encourage more opportunities for people to take part in physical activity and this will help provide new options for exercise for people who enjoy sports.”

The new facility will help deliver the council’s Playing Pitch Strategy, which said there was a significant deficit in football provision across the district.

The document – developed to guide the investment, development and improvement of playing pitches over the next 10 years – said there was a deficit of seven full-sized 3G artificial grass pitches, with only one full-sized 3G pitch available to the community, at Park House School.

The council said that the new Step 6 facility would provide teams with the facilities needed to play in higher leagues.

Newbury Football Club have been playing in the Thames Valley Premier League, Step 7. Hungerford Town FC play in Step 2 and Thatcham Town FC play in Step 4.

The council's head of public protection and culture Paul Anstey told Newburytoday that the council had been in discussions with Newbury Rugby Club as a potential option among others.

He said "all the options had the ability to deliver but this was our preferred option".

He said: "We have been looking at how the site they are operating could assist us with some of our objectives and the playing pitch strategy.

"We want to deliver more playing pitches in the Newbury catchment area and Newbury Rugby Club have said very clearly they want to underline their credentials as a community sports hub.

"The appropriate steps for us is to make sure that the rugby club are comfortable with the position and nature of the discussions and we had to get to a point where we understood what the financial implications were for us."

Mr Anstey said that the proposed ground would have the ability to expand.

"I know we don’t have it right now but we can have a football club that can come in and grow to the higher leagues. We have gone up to Step 6 because we don't have a club that can operate at that level at the moment".

Newbury Rugby Club president David Jones said: “As landlord, Newbury Rugby Club will be seeking to underline our continued objective to be a key community sports club for Newbury and surrounding area, developing modern facilities and improving our long term sustainability.

"We are very supportive of the council's objective to offer sporting opportunities for all age groups locally and we already have 600 playing members at the club.

"The proposal from the council, we hope, will align with the continued development of rugby and the wider development of sport in the Newbury area.”

The council’s executive will meet next week to recommend that formal discussions begin with the club.

The council will also run a six-week consultation on the proposals at https://info.westberks.gov.uk/consultations

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