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West Berkshire Council approves Monks Lane Sports Hub contract – but can't be signed until legal challenge ends

The Monks Lane Sports Hub contract has been approved – with the council saying build costs won't exceed £3.878m.

West Berkshire Council had not signed the management agreement due to a judicial review challenging the legality of the hub, which has delayed the build.

It says the appeal has cost the project an extra £527,000 as a result of the Judicial Review and subsequent appeals.

A computer generated image of the sports hub at Monks Lane
A computer generated image of the sports hub at Monks Lane

The development is subject to a land deal and a 40-year lease with Newbury Rugby Club – which campaigners say will costs more than £10m to the council taxpayer over the term, along with various maintenance costs. The same campaigners turned up at last night's executive committee meeting with another raft of questions around the finance of the sports hub, saying the council "should be ashamed of itself".

Agreements have not yet been signed due to the risks associated with the court claim but are to be signed, subject to the conclusion of the claim.

The High Court dismissed the Judicial Review and Alliance Leisure Services (ALS) submitted further revised costs of £3.878 million for executive approval prior to signing the development management agreement.

However, the council says it has been informed that leave to appeal has been applied for directly to the Court of Appeal, but that it has not been served with the appellant's notice.

It says any request for leave to appeal is therefore out of time, and could only proceed if a request for an extension of time were allowed by the Court of Appeal.

The sports hub is due to be built at Newbury Rugby Club
The sports hub is due to be built at Newbury Rugby Club

On the basis of the information known by the council, it says there is no basis upon which the court could reasonably grant an application for an extension of time in the circumstances.

The sports hub will deliver a new sports stadium to meet the standards of a Step 4 ground, enabling local football teams to play their home matches at the venue.

"We want the hub competed by March 2024/25 season," said Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn). "Demand for football pitches continues to grow with up to 50 teams travelling outside the area to play.

"It should be open and Newbury Football Club should be playing there now."

Lee Dillon, Liberal Democrat leader, said another appeal was imminent, and that would cause a delay of two months, adding it would be prudent to wait for that.

His party has pledged to bring football back to Faraday Road if it wins control at the next election in May.

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