Fri, 24 Jul 2020
A LOCAL community football group has blasted West Berkshire Council after it was revealed that Newbury Football Club may have to move permanently to Thatcham.
It emerged last week that an £18,000 consultation into the feasibility of moving the club to three potential council-owned sites had been concluded with none of the sites deemed ideal.
However, if no non-council-owned site could be found for the club in Newbury then they would likely have to move permanently to Henwick Worthy Sports Ground – in Thatcham.
Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) – which has been campaigning for Newbury FC’s former home Faraday Road to be reopened – has criticised the council for not finding a suitable replacement for football in Newbury before evicting the club in July 2018.
NCFG chairman Paul Morgan said: “This is not, nor has ever been, about the loss of a home ground to one football team.
“It is about the loss of the ground to the whole community and this fact has been continually pointed out to the council.
“If the council had, as it should have, provided a replacement facility of equal or better standard within a similar and suitable location before it closed the current ground then no one would have had grounds to complain or object.
“But unfortunately, two years after the closure of the existing ground, no alternative location has been identified and no timeframe has been provided for any new facility to become operational.”
Mr Morgan also called for the ground to be restored to its former state in order for the club to be able to return.
He continued: “There is a simple and obvious way forward.
“NCFG and the footballing community of Newbury proposes that the current ground, in Faraday Road, is reopened and returned to its former status as a Step 5 facility without further delay so that it can be used for its intended purposes by the whole community.
“Once opened and returned to its former status, NCFG wants the ground to remain open until either NCFG plans for a 3G pitch and new clubhouse at the current site have been delivered, or the council has provided a new and fully-operational facility which is in a suitable location and is of equivalent or better quality (as defined by Sport England) than the current Faraday Road football ground.
“It is vital for Newbury’s civic pride aspirations and for the overall health and well-being of the whole community that organised football can be provided, for all ages and genders, at the best possible facilities.
“NCFG believes that a town of Newbury’s size and stature needs a football ground that can provide the facilities required to support teams that can compete in the National League System.”
The redevelopment of Faraday Road is part of the council’s wider plans for the regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate.
The council initially evicted the club in 2018 in order to have the land ready for development.
It then ran into legal challenges, however, with a contract with developer St Modwen deemed to be illegal.
The ground has remained empty ever since, falling into a state of disrepair.