Two views on the immediate future of the football ground in Newbury

The football ground in Faraday Road in Newbury was closed in June 2018 by its landlords, West Berkshire Council (WBC) in preparation for the development of the London Road Industrial Estate in which it’s situated. This project has faced various delays, as has the matter of finding a replacement ground. The whole business has led to a considerable amount of debate and has led to the creation of a campaigning organisation, the Newbury Community Football Group. The two latest developments have been (a) WBC’s hope that a solution can be found in a ground-sharing arrangement with the Rugby Club; and (b) discussion within WBC about the various costs involved in maintaining or demolishing the remaining structures Faraday Road.

Many local media organisations, including Penny Post, have covered this story over the last three years. Two recent statements have been received by Penny Post: the first from the the West Berkshire Liberal Democrats; the second a response from District Councillor Howard Woollaston whose portfolio responsibilities include playing pitches.

Without further ado or comment, I stand aside and let these two viewpoints speak for themselves. Should you wish to add a comment of your own, please use the box at the foot of this post.

Statement from the Liberal Democrat Groups on both West Berkshire Council and Newbury Town Council

Received 12 April 2021

The Liberal Democrat Groups on both West Berkshire Council (WBC) and Newbury Town Council (NTC) wholeheartedly support the recent alternative proposal for the Faraday Road Football Ground from the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG).

NCFG has clearly done its homework and is looking for ways to allow the football ground on the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) to host youth football and at the same time save WBC £164,000 of taxpayers’ money. For only £27,000, NCFG have shown how the ground can be re-opened to deliver real and immediate benefit to the football community right in the heart of Newbury. Their proposal would provide a much-needed focus for youth football in Newbury and there’s no logical reason why they couldn’t continue playing at the football ground until the LRIE development is actually ready to begin.

Lee Dillon, leader of the WBC Liberal Democrat Group said “WBC is current planning to demolish the football ground, which is officially an asset of community value, at a cost of £191,000. The NCFG proposal clearly shows how WBC can increase the value to the community while saving £164,000. It’s a no-brainer, especially when they’ve already wasted £1 million on the LRIE development.”

Martin Colston, leader of the NTC Liberal Democrat Group added “We continue to support keeping the football community in the heart of Newbury where it belongs. It makes no sense to us that WBC evicted the football club and shut the ground three years ago, long before any development of the LRIE was likely to start. Let’s get the ground re-opened and used for football at least until a suitable like-for-like replacement has been built. The NCFG has been an outstanding champion for this cause and brings not only passion but common sense and logic. We will now explore how NTC can best support this excellent proposal.”

Statement from Howard Woollaston, WBC Councillor with responsibility for playing pitches

Received 14 April 2021

I have looked again at the proposals from NCFG and they frankly don’t add up.

These proposals do not save money for West Berkshire Council taxpayers. Instead they leave unresolved existing on-going cost liabilities in respect of structures that represent a major health and safety risk and extinguish an opportunity for the Council to generate some income over the next three years to fund the maintenance of the proposed open-space facility.

Whatever interim use is made of the old grass pitch, existing buildings and poor fencing cannot be left in situ. It is not sensible or practical to leave these structures while the old grass pitch is reused. WBC’s budget allowances for demolition and removal works is £44,000. To date, security on the old clubhouse, which cannot be reoccupied, has cost £10,000.  The insurers understandably require the Council to take all reasonable measures to prevent unauthorised access into the buildings and area generally in order for WBC not to be liable for potential injury claims or worse. Similarly, debris and rubbish generated by vandals needs clearing in order to decrease the chance of arson and to make the area as unattractive as possible to future incidents. In March 2021, WBC had to spend over £2,000 on removing debris from around the clubhouse, repairing the boundary fence that was in poor condition and again making secure the clubhouse where metal sheet security panelling had been torn away, yet again.

Proposals to provide additional pay-and-display parking are costed at just under £70,000 and this is cost-neutral. The estimated pay-and-display income is £28,000 per annum for three years, leaving a small surplus to fund maintenance costs of the area. This forecasted income is based on post-Covid uptake assumptions, allowing for a 50% reduction in income from previous years.

Allowances to re-open the old grass pitch for recreational use stand at £36,000 and these can be compared to the figure of £27,000 quoted by NCFG.  The cost of £36,000 delivers work to the pitch, new palisade fencing, hedge planting and timber anti-vehicle bollards. The £27,000 quoted by NCFG includes metal fencing to protect the clubhouse and does not address the need to make the pitch secure with either new fencing or anti-vehicle bollards. Increased cost to secure the clubhouse is money wholly wasted; the building is completely beyond practical repair and, however protected, the clubhouse remains a serious potential health-and-safety risk. NCFG’s proposals point out that leaving the clubhouse in situ will save the cost of bat surveys. This is a very modest maximum cost of £2,500, including (if necessary) securing a Natural England licence, compared to ongoing security for a building that can never again be reused. To reiterate: however well secured it is, it remains a major public health-and-safety risk.

The rest of the Council’s potential open space costs cover contingencies, inflation and possible further surveys. It is hoped the NCFG can embrace the fantastic opportunities of the new facilities to be provided at the Newbury Rugby Club ground which are due for completion in late spring next year. In the meantime the Council must continue with its open-space proposals including the demolition of redundant and dangerous structures. The NCFG proposals are just not in touch with reality.

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3 Responses

  1. The question Howard Woolaston has to answer is why is the old club house been allowed to fall into disrepair in the first place?
    The simple answer is that they put the cart before the horse in kicking out the football club before getting planning permission to build. The sad thing is he and the rest of the tory executive haven’t learnt anything from the past and are still showing childlike levels of incompetence.

  2. What concerns me about all these ‘stances’ is the statements from various people who are not clear on who they are speaking for – a Local Authority or a Political Party.
    So NTC does not have a Chairman of A Parish/Town Council, it instead has a ‘Leader’ and the ‘Leader is mentioned as belonging to a political,party? Is that relevant? Surely the views of the ‘Leader’ should be non political ( in accordance with LGA guideline) and should reflect the position as agreed by the whole Town Council . The views of NTC as a body should be made known by the Officers of the Council who are non party political. Can you please get a statement from the Responsible Officer within NTC to make clear THE COUNCILS resolved position on Planning Application 20/03070/FUL & theirvresponse the the recent Consultation of the proposal to locate NTFC at Wash Common.

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