Response to the Council Motion relating to the demolition of the former Newbury Football Ground Clubhouse (EX4005)
Purpose: To provide the response to the Motion presented to the 3 December 2020 Council meeting.
Resolved to reject the motion. The planning application is being considered by Planning amongst other things for the demolition of an unsafe club house and to introduce measures to allow the old grass pitch to be brought into general public use. Whilst this is underway it is not proposed that the site would be used for football training and matches.
This decision is not subject to call in as:
· a delay in implementing the decision could cause the Council serious financial implications or could compromise the Council's position.
therefore it will be implemented immediately.
The Executive considered a report (Agenda Item 9) concerning the response to the Motion submitted by Councillor Lee Dillon at the Council meeting on 3 December 2020:
‘We propose the Council postpones their application for demolition of the Faraday Road Football Ground facilities at least until the equivalent, or better, alternative site is confirmed and approved by the football community.
Furthermore, we propose that the Council now engage with the local football community and interested parties (e.g. Newbury Community Football Group and Newbury Town Council) to explore options that make the Faraday Road Football Ground available for Men’s, Ladies and youth clubs in Newbury to book for football training and matches in the meantime.’
Councillor Ross Mackinnon presented the report which proposed that the Motion be rejected. He raised the importance of remembering the positive reasons on why the Council was seeking to redevelop the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE). Redevelopment would provide employment opportunities for local residents to help ensure high employment, it would attract inward investment and support existing businesses to thrive and to grow. It was a commitment of the Conservative Manifesto for West Berkshire to be attractive to the business community and to prioritise having a strong local economy.
Following the impact of Covid-19 it had become even more important to actively stimulate the economy. The regeneration of the LRIE was a key aspect in ensuring that West Berkshire was open and welcoming for businesses.
Councillor Mackinnon referred to the wording of the Motion and reference to the football community. He questioned the suggestion that the Council should need the consent of the football community to proceed. The football community was broad and went beyond the Community Football Group.
The structure on the old football ground was unsafe and the site could not be used until this was demolished. Alternative provision had been identified in accordance with the Playing Pitch Strategy and was within the Newbury area. The proposal was for the previous grass pitch to be made available for general recreation until the land was redeveloped. The Council was committed to regenerating and redeveloping the LRIE for the reasons explained and did not want to postpone this.
Councillor Dillon clarified that the Motion requested that the football pitch be reopened until another site had been identified. No such alternative was identified at the time when he submitted the Motion and had not been identified for some time. Newbury Football Club had been evicted without first securing additional sites. The Rugby Club had since been identified as an alternative facility, but if this option did not transpire then, in his view, there was no other viable alternative.
Councillor Dillon continued by pointing out the health and safety concerns and the fact that the pitch had not been available for use were as a result of inaction by the Administration. Approval of the Motion would not have tied the Council and would not have delayed redevelopment at the appropriate time.
Many questions had been submitted by members of the public and Councillor Dillon referred to one which questioned the investment for a car park and grassed area when it would be located adjacent to Victoria Park. Councillor Dillon felt that action could and should have been taken at a much earlier stage by the Council to keep the pitch in use, at a similar level of expense to what was proposed.
Councillor Mackinnon reiterated that there were very good reasons for the decisions that had been made. The Executive, at its meeting in December 2020, had made a decision with regard to redevelopment. This had been called-in to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission who found that the Executive had acted appropriately.
Councillor Mackinnon felt that it was time to move forward with redevelopment and look to the good alternative provision that had been identified. It was time to move away from going over the history of the site.
Councillor Dillon responded by advising that he tabled the Motion in December 2020 and it had taken until this meeting to receive the response.
Councillor Tony Vickers agreed that plans for the site should be progressed and this would be at the Area Planning Committee.
Councillor Richard Somner seconded the proposal to reject the Motion. It was the case that the current structure was unsafe and this was the major factor in rejecting the Motion and proceeding with demolition. He too would like to see the project move forward and avoid further delays.
Councillor Somner felt that the redevelopment of the site could result in the provision of smaller properties in the area which, as already referred to in this meeting, was a recognised need.
RESOLVED that the Motion be rejected. The planning application was being considered by Planning amongst other things for the demolition of an unsafe club house and introduced measures that allowed the old grass pitch to be brought into general public use. Whilst this was underway it was not proposed that the site would be used for football training and matches.
Other options considered: None.