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Keep Off Our Grass campaign may go to law

Sports groups unite to seek Community Value status for Newbury's football home

Malcolm Howe



keggy lines

Keith Moss - nominated for grounds award

KEEP OFF OUR GRASS! That was the message sent to West Berkshire Council by local football groups as they unite to fight plans to demolish the Faraday Road Stadium and remove the sports base in the town.

Those groups are low uniting to form the Newbury Football Community Group to seek registering the ground as an Asset of Community Value to prevent the proposed June closure of the ground and the loss of of a valuable community sports hub, without any plans for a replacement.

Registering as an ACV would produce additional protection for the ground under the Localism Act of 2011 and enable further legal challenge to propsals that are not yet part of any formal application.

The steering action group set up to fight for the ground’s protection met this week and was handed another boost with confirmation that the annual charity event ‘The Big Match’ would be staged at Faraday Road, just days before West Berkshire Council plans to kick Newbury Football Club out of the premises and shut down the ground.

And the group insists that is already contrary to the council’s own Core Strategy and is likely to form part of any legal challenge.

The Football Club is named as a green infrastructure within that strategy with the policy statement: “Developments resulting in the loss of green infrastructure or harm to its use or enjoyment by the public will not be permitted. Where exceptionally it is agreed that an area of green infrastructure can be lost, a new one of equal or greater size and standard will be required to be provided in an accessible location close by.”

The ACV registration process will be carried out advance of the NFCG’S meeting with council officers, by which time it hopes to have a legal opinion from a barrister.

A statement from the group added that a further option is to report the issue to the Local Government Ombudsman.

“If the council ends the lease of the current tenant but does not allow the interested community groups to manage and maintain a registered sporting provision for the communuity, then that is a matter of Public Law and that is cause for a Judicial Review.”

Meanwhile, much of the public car park area and green space outside the ground has been transformed into a construction site, using the Football Club’s power and water, and the company carrying out A339 road works has requested additional use of space within the ground for which it will be seeking rent - and that will be used towards any legal challenges to West Berkshire Council.

Meanwhile, the club is hosting a representative game between the Berks and Bucks Under 16s and Gwent on Saturday at 2pm as well as the Newbury's Sunday League cup finals for four successive weekends from April 17.

The Faraday Road playing surface is also in the last three for the Berks and Bucks FA's Groundsman of the Year award, with Keith Moss the nominee. 

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