Sent to West Berkshire Councillors and Officers 21/10/21

NCFG response to Sports Hub Planning Application

Dear West Berkshire Councillors and Officers

Please find attached Newbury Community Football Group’s detailed response to the Sports Hub proposal and Planning Application

After a detailed review and evaluation and following meetings with Sport England, the FA and the Football Foundation, with regret NCFG cannot support this proposal as a replacement for the existing Newbury Football Ground at Faraday Road.

Furthermore, given the excessive costs, the loss-making business case, the priority (and exclusive financial inducements & free use) given to rugby-club use and the overall design, NCFG also object to the planning application as a standalone 3G football pitch and as such will formally object to Planning Application 21/02173/COMIND.

On top of capital costs of around £3m and based on West Berks Council’s own business case, the total running costs over the period of the lease to the West Berks Council Tax payer is £3.6m. It rises to £6.1m if you include the missing costs identified by Sport England. 

A total cost of £9.17m for a replacement scheme that is not of equivalent or better quality than Faraday Road Football Ground.

To spend this amount on a facility that is not a replacement football ground is an abhorrent waste of tax-payers money. As Sport England stated in their objections, this money could be much better spent on addressing the facility needs across West Berkshire.

The business case fails significantly as Newbury Rugby Club have not only negotiated an “extremely high rent “ (according to  Sport England) of £41k and receive a one-off “lease-premium” of £250,000, they have also managed to negotiate free access to premium slots of the 3G pitch as well as heavily discounted rates for other slots. This means that football teams have to not only pay a much higher rate than rugby teams, but that children’s football teams do not have access to many of the key slots, such as midweek evening for training and Sunday morning for matches – The net impact is a dramatic hit to revenue that forces the scheme to run at a loss every year for 40 years.

It is important to note that NCFG’s own Planning Application to redevelop Faraday Road with a 3G pitch and Step 4 ground grading  with expansion space to Step 2,  comes at a cost to the local tax payer of just £500k capital outlay (due to anticipated Football Foundation contributions). It also has a fully self-sustaining business case with no requirements for running cost support. It is of course rent free as a WBC property and allows full access to all, with no subsidised slots. Furthermore our business case has been formally approved by Sport England.

We would strongly recommend withdrawing from the currently negotiated proposals with Newbury Rugby Club and that an urgent review is carried out of the current governance, over-sight and experience of West Berkshire Council’s negotiating team.

All details can be found in the attached document:

https://news.ncfg.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/NCFG-Objection-Summary.pdf

Kind Regards

Lee McDougall

NCFG