Proposal for football ground at Newbury Rugby Club welcomed

John Herringin Football

Newbury Rugby Club identified as preferred site for new sports facility. Proposals to build a new football ground at Newbury Rugby Club have been welcomed, but more details are required.

The new facility will include a high-quality artificial grass pitch, stadium, floodlights, changing room and function room.

West Berkshire Council aims to open the Step 6 facility, which will be available for community use, in March 2022.

It will replace the Faraday Road sports ground, Newbury Football Club's home until it was evicted in 2018 for the council to begin regenerating the London Road Industrial Estate.

The ground has sat empty since, and the club has been playing games at Brimpton and Thatcham's Henwick Worthy Sports Ground.

Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) has been fighting for the council to reopen the Faraday Road ground.

NCFG chairman Paul Morgan said the group awaited more details of the new facility.

"NCFG wholeheartedly and unreservedly supports any scheme that provides additional and improved sports opportunities for the population of Newbury and West Berkshire," he said.

"We look forward to seeing the details that describe exactly what the facility will provide and how it will be managed and operated and by whom. These details will be required to enable the public to provide meaningful input on the proposal as part of the consultation process."

"We would also be keen to understand the details and timescales of the alternative options that will be provided if, for whatever reason, this latest proposal is not deliverable."

The council's executive met last night (Thursday) to recommend that formal discussions begin with the rugby club.

A public consultation will also be held.

Mr Morgan said that consultation was vital "after so much time, public concern and controversy that the selected solution does actually meet the needs and requirements of the football community and the governing sports bodies".

Council documents have identified nine risks associated with the project, including failure to get planning permission, a rejection of the final lease offer and failure to win support from Sport England, Rugby Football Union or the Football Association.

The council's plan B is to develop a site at 'The Diamond' on Pigeons Farm in Greenham should the rugby club proposal prove unsuccessful.

However, the council said The Diamond was seen as "a satisfactory but not ideal location".

Newbury town councillors expressed their concerns over the rugby club proposal in a planning and highways meeting on January 6.

Phil Barnett (Lib Dem, Clay Hill) said: "We're now going through a stage where extra vehicles for the care homes, sports centres, the back of the rugby club, Falklands surgery - parking is already a problem.

"It will be a major issue if the rugby club becomes something like Henwick Worthy and what Henwick Lane is like on a Saturday or Sunday. God forbid Monks Lane doesn't become a Henwick Lane."

Vaughan Miller (Lib Dem, East Fields) added: "They're expecting this to be completed by March 2022.

"I'd be surprised if it goes through planning by then. I'm expecting there will be some objections by residents."

The new facility will help deliver the council's Playing Pitch Strategy, which said there was a significant deficit in football provision across the district.

The document said there was a deficit of seven full-sized 3G artificial grass pitches, with only one full-sized 3G pitch available to the community, at Park House School.

The council said that the new Step 6 facility would provide teams with the facilities needed to play in higher leagues.

Newbury Football Club have been playing in the Thames Valley Premier League, Step 7.

Hungerford Town FC play in Step 2 and Thatcham Town FC play in Step 4.

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