West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Newbury Sports Ground - Joint Land Deal (EX4010)

Purpose: To provide a summary of the consultation and engagement process on the provision of a new sports ground at Newbury Rugby Club. To update the Executive on the outcome of the negotiations with Newbury Rugby Club and to enter into various land agreements with the Club.

Decision:

Resolved that:

 

·         The draft Agreement for Lease and its appendices including the draft Lease and associated draft agreement with the Newbury Rugby Club in relation to the sports ground provision at the site be approved (as detailed in the Part II report).

·         Authority be delegated to the Service Director of Strategy and Governance, in consultation with the Service Director of Communities and Wellbeing, to enter into agreement for lease and any other agreements, including any amendments that are necessary, and in line with the agreed Heads of Terms.

·         The allocation of funds be approved (as detailed in the Part II report).

 

This decision is eligible to be ‘called-in’.  However, if the decision has not been ‘called-in’ by 5.00pm on 7 May 2021, then it will be implemented.

Minutes:

The Executive considered a report (Agenda Item 8) concerning the Newbury Sports Ground – Joint Land Deal which was to provide a summary of the consultation and engagement process on the provision of a new sports ground at Newbury Rugby Club (NRC) and to further update the Executive on the outcome of the negotiations with NRC and to enter into various land agreements with the Club.

Councillor Howard Woollaston was delighted to bring this report to Executive as it represented the culmination of a huge amount of work by Officers to come to this fantastic solution to a problem which had been ongoing for a number of years. When he took over the Leisure element of his portfolio almost exactly a year ago, this had been his number one priority. The Council had previously commissioned a report looking at Council owned land and had come up with three options, none of which were totally suitable. He then asked Officers to re-approach the Rugby Club to see if there was an opportunity to create a community based centre for sporting excellence and provide a new home for Newbury’s football clubs. The Rugby Club responded positively and after a fairly protracted series of negotiations both parties had arrived at this point.

The financial information was all contained in the Part II section as it was commercially sensitive but to summarise, Heads of Terms had been agreed.  A Lease and an Agreement to Lease were ready to be signed, if Executive approval was given, to take a 40-year lease on a near 2.5 acre site on the Monks Lane frontage of the Newbury Rugby Club. There was a 20 year break clause to protect the Council’s interest.

It was noted that the intention was to submit a planning application in the following month for a 3G artificial playing pitch with two stands (holding 150 and 50 people respectively), floodlighting, full fencing with turnstiles and 56 car parking spaces. In addition a 3,000 square foot Clubhouse would incorporate four separate changing rooms and two officials changing rooms (allowing for mixed teams and the safeguarding of young people), a function room with bar facilities, subject to licensing approval, a kitchen and an office.

The project started off with the intention of achieving what was called a Step 6 facility. Newbury Football Club currently required a Step 7 pitch, but the Council had managed to achieve a Step 4 facility which would allow the local teams to scale a number of levels above where they were today. There was also the possibility that the site could get to a Step 2 facility according to the initial view of the Council’s consultants but that would require significant additional capital investment, which could not be justified at this stage.

Subject to the planning process it was hoped to have the contractor on site by late summer to allow the pitch to be playable by March 2022 and for Newbury Football Club to be able to apply for a higher ranking ahead of the new season.

This was a quantum leap for the football community in Newbury creating a top-quality ground for the men’s, ladies, and youth teams. It was something that Newbury should be proud of and Councillor Woollaston hoped that there would be full support for this from all parties. He also hoped to be able to announce a further properly drained grass pitch and a further artificial pitch in the autumn. Sports England, the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union were all aware of these plans.

This was all part of the Playing Pitch strategy that had been approved by the Administration in February 2020 to create a total of six new 3G artificial pitches and further quality grass pitches across the District and he was therefore delighted to propose approval of the recommendation.

Councillor Erik Pattenden asked whether there had been any support so far from Sports England, the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union. Councillor Howard Woollaston confirmed that they had all been spoken to and, whilst it had not been a full consultation, they were aware of the plan and no problems were anticipated.

Councillor Adrian Abbs referred to the various steps and that there might be a possibility of moving to Step 2. He stated that the further the facility went in terms of steps then the greater the support and traffic and he queried what modelling had been done in relation to that to ensure that Steps 2 and 3 were deliverable. Councillor Woollaston confirmed that all that was being delivered at this stage was Step 4. The consultants had indicated that there was a possibility of going beyond that. Some preliminary modelling had been done but more detail would be provided ahead of the planning application.

Councillor Steve Masters noted that this had been a contentious project so far and he asked what the risk of failure was in terms of not delivering on time due to contractual issues or lack of planning etc. Secondly, given the contentious nature did the Council accept that there was a certain amount of reputational risk at stake and what measures would be put in place to mitigate that? Councillor Woollaston responded that in terms of the contractual issues the agreement to proceed would be subject to detailed planning consent and therefore there would not be a risk to the Council. There would always be some element of risk as with any building project.

Councillor Ross Mackinnon stated that this looked to be an outstanding facility and would be a major step forward in respect of the future of all sport. It therefore received his wholehearted support.

Councillor Lynne Doherty clarified that there would not be a vote on the recommendations at this point as there was a Part II paper later on in the agenda where the decision would be taken.

RESOLVED that:

(1)       The draft Agreement for Lease and its appendices including the draft Lease and associated draft agreement with the Newbury Rugby Club in relation the Sports Ground provision at the site (as detailed in the Part 2 Report) be approved.

(2)       Authority be delegated to the Service Director of Strategy & Governance in consultation with the Service Director of Communities and Wellbeing to enter into agreement for lease and any other agreements including any such amendments that were necessary and in line with the agreed Heads of Terms;

(3)       The allocation of funds (as detailed in the Part 2 Report) be approved.

Other options considered:

As detailed in the previous report, the Council had reviewed options for development of a Sports Ground at different sites. Each were deliverable to a varying degree but had been discounted.

Doing nothing at this stage was not considered to be a viable option due to the Council’s ongoing commitment to deliver the objectives of the Playing Pitch Strategy.

Supporting documents: