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News update February 2020
The Playing Pitch Strategy finally gets approved at the council executive meeting on 13 February but our questions still don't get fully answered.
To overcome a late Environment Agency objection to the position of the spectator stand near the river we are adjusting our 3G ground plan.
The survey to choose the alternative football ground starts soon but will it be Henwick, Northcroft, The Diamond or none of them?!
We are told Faraday Road is off limits, but it's the obvious first choice if the council would only admit it.
What, if anything, did we learn from the West Berkshire Council Executive Meeting held on Thursday 13 February 2020?
• That the Council’s policy and overall approach towards the London Road Estate appears to be in a more dilapidated state than the abandoned Faraday Road Football Ground itself.
• That the Council continues to make key and strategically important decisions behind closed doors, without evidence and in contravention to its own published consultation policy which sets out a very clear commitment and policy-based obligation to carry out consultation so that decisions are “evidence-based, taking into account the views and experiences of residents and service users.”
• That the Council has not spent any money on maintaining the football ground over the past 10 years and claim that they do not have any responsibility for maintaining the pitch, buildings and associated infrastructure. They say that the ground is not open space and have no responsibility as Landlords to maintain the site at all, and seem totally unconcerned by the ground's current rundown state.
• The Council continues to systematically and deliberately destroy the current football ground. The latest act of destruction is the removal and presumably disposal of over 350 metres of metal supporters barrier and 1.1-metre-high chain link fencing surrounding the pitch. When asked who from the Council authorised its removal, why it was removed and if it was sold the Council appeared to have no knowledge of this whatsoever.
• The Council arrogantly and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that they have made any mistakes, whatsoever, with respect to decisions made regarding the town's only football ground.
• The Council keep saying that since 2004 they have had a “vision” to redevelop the London Road Estate and as part of this vison the football club would need to be relocated, so what have they been doing for the past 16 years?
o Have they applied for planning permission to build on the football ground? – NO
o Have they undertaken public consultation regarding the loss or replacement / relocation of the football ground? - NO
o Have they come up with plans and timescales to provide a new (replacement) facility for the football ground? – NO
o Have they spent any money on maintaining / enhancing the ground over the past 10 years? - NO
o Councillor Rick Jones has just announced that a consultancy firm (Surface Standards) has been appointed to carry out a feasibility study on alternative sites as a potential replacement for the football ground. Does this mean that one of the options they will be looking at is to retain the current site if a suitable alternative cannot be identified in a sensible timescale? – NO
o Since June 2018 has the Council received any income from the football ground? - NO
o Have they prematurely and needlessly shut down (since June 2018) the ground and denied the community access to it? – YES
o Since June 2018 have, they systematically and deliberately destroyed the once well-loved and well used football ground that has stood on the site since 1963? – YES
o Did the Court of Appeal rule that the Council’s development plans with St Modwen’s was unlawful and that this needed scrapping? - YES
o As a result of the Court of Appeal ruling is the Council now looking at a new masterplan for the whole estate with a new consultancy firm called Avison Young? – YES
o In January 2020 did the Council’s Western Area Planning Committee recommend the approval of NCFG’s planning application for a new artificial 3G turf facility and club house at Faraday Road? - YES
o Did NCFG undertake a public consultation regarding its planning application? - YES
o Did NCFG’s planning application have the support of Sport England, the FA, Newbury Town Council, The Newbury Society and the public (over 3000 people supported this application)? - YES
o Did Councillor Rick Jones confirm that it is the Council’s policy absolutely not to allow the football ground to stay where it is at its current location? - YES
o Does NCFG agree with Councillor Hilary Cole's statement that “every planning application has to be treated on its merits and take into account the most up-to-date information and planning policies at both a national and local level”? – YES
o Would it not be the right and sensible thing to re-open the existing ground to allow organised football matches and training until such a time as a new facility is operational? – YES
o Would this involve the Council spending money to bring the ground back to the condition and status it was when they closed it in June 2018? – YES
o Is it appropriate to use public funds like S106/CIL to bring the ground back to the condition and status it was when they closed it in June 2018? - YES...
The Council have not provided any investment in the ground over the past 10 years.
It was solely the Council’s decision to prematurely close the ground in June 2018 (without a replacement being available)
As a direct consequence of the Council’s decision the ground has been totally neglected and is now in a very poor condition.
Why has the Council only now starting looking at options for an alternative location?
At some point in the future the current ground and buildings will be replaced either at a new location or in the same location (NCFG planning application). The big issue, that is simply being ignored by the Council, is the only tangible option at the moment is the replacement option at the current location (it has a planning application that has been passed, it does not involve change of use etc). The other option, looking for a new location, has only just been kicked off and there is absolutely no guarantee that a suitable location will be ever be found. As stated at the WBC Exec meeting how long is a reasonable time to wait? What happens if they are still looking at possible options 2, 3, 5 or 10 years from now? What happens if no suitable alternative location is identified? Even if a new suitable location is found, realistically how long will it be before it becomes operational?
The Council needs stop wasting more time and effort by coming up with one temporary scheme after another (which they have not consulted with anyone on) that clearly does not provide the community with what it actually wants and needs.
The Council have been prepared to spend money on other “temporary” schemes (such as a MUGA - £88,000) that no one wanted.
For goodness sake please West Berkshire Council do the right thing and announce that you will bring the ground back to the condition and status it was when it was closed in June 2018 and commit to keeping it open and operational until the current ground and buildings are replaced either at a new location or in the same location!
News update January 2020
Our appeal for planning permission to build an artificial turf football stadium at Faraday Road was unanimously supported by the Western Area Planning Committee of West Berkshire Council on Wed 15 Jan, so we have proved that a new football ground on the site of the existing one is viable (obvious really!) See our press release here.
But what a mess the ground is in! Closed unnecessarily 18 months ago and it won't be re-opened for football by the council. The ground was usable in June 2018 and has been partly demolished mysteriously since, so we continue to have no decent football venue. The council refused to divulge a condition report in our FOI request and on two site visits no one turned up with a key to open the buildings for inspection. Still no sound reasons why the ground can't be re-opened, but they won't do it. They've changed their mind about the unpopular MUGA and replaced that idea with a cheaper unpopluar fence round a field, really? We will continue to ask if we can play some sort of organised football there.
Please see the news blog for recent posts on the subject.
At no time until now has WBC volunteered to replace the football ground with a like-for-like facility, even though this should have been on their to-do list back in 2003-05 (they just repeat that they've always said it was part of their "vision" and everyone must know about it); meantime we are left in a hiatus with no ground. And will the council fund a new community ground?
It was closed because WBC entered into a contract with St Modwen that obligated the council to secure vacant possession. Even without the development agreement being unlawful (which the council seems to think was not their fault), there was no way that development could have taken place for several years after the ground was closed, so why close it prematurely?
WBC has only acted under recent pressure from us, the FA and Sport England.
WBC has not explained what the benefits of flats over a football ground are (they just state it as obvious when it's not to most people) - how do they measure these so-called advantages?
Who removed the pitch perimeter spectator chain link fence from the ground and why? (it's still listed as a work cost to do).
WBC assume that any temporary tenant needs a lease, but why can't it just be an adhoc booking arrangement like we suggested?
News update December 2019
Look at the state of the ground... no stand, no pitch perimiter railings, pitch needs lots of TLC and the buildings are dilapidated/vandalised!
Please see the news blog here for a short panaramic video
News updates August-November 2019
Not much has happened with the council's MUGA or our long-overdue 3G planning application but our evidence-based LGO complaint has moved on to its last stages of determination and we are optimistic to hear of a mutually agreeable Playing Pitch Strategy (PPS).
We are in dialogue with the council's portfolio holder about the possibility of reopening the ground and are waiting to see site reports, but we're not holding our breath.
The FA has launched its Local Football Facility Plan survey and we've contributed. We're still proactively looking forward to Newbury getting some new, better artificial pitches.
Please see the news blog and here for a summary of our council executive questions.
Please see the news blog and here for a list of our Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
News updates May-July 2019
No movement on the heavily objected West Berks Council MUGA plans for Newbury Football Ground, upheld by Newbury Town Council.
No news of when our artificial turf and ground planning application will be heard.
Some of the old sheds on the ground mysteriously catch fire! See this.
The spectator stand makes its way to Hungerford, but it's 40% of its former size, see this.
NCFG's complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman is delayed by slow and incomplete responses from the council (sounds familiar!).
Our FOI about the plan behind the MUGA reveals some of WBCs avoidance tactics. Read this.
WBC at loggerheads with the sporting bodies over the Playing Pitch Strategy and whether the Faraday Road ground should be replaced with an equal or better facility.
WBC want to gamble on demonstrating the LRIE redevelopment outweighs keeping the ground, but they cannot defend not replacing it! NCFG is discussing the issues with the council's leisure head, Cllr Rick Jones (more details to be added to the news blog shortly).
News updates April 2019
West Berks Council applies for planning permission to erect perimeter fencing and floodlights at Newbury Football Ground arounds its proposed multi-use games area (MUGA)! WHY?! We have a perfectly good application to build an artificial football pitch and facilities to cater for organised league and cup football. And WBC's work will cost three times the £88,000 already mentioned by them. Given that there will be no developments in the London Road Estate for a long time, they could have left the ground as it was and the community would have retained its much needed facility.
The surprising MUGA planning application by the Council is here:
We need to secure at least 10 objections to it to force it to committee. This is further destruction of the existing facility, there is a lack lack of evidence to support its need, it's counter to the need for formal football facilities, a waste of public money, contrary to WBC's own policies.
It will cost more than the predicted £88k (maybe up to £300K) and we demand the council declare how much it has budgeted for the facility and how much it has budgeted for the replacement of the football ground.
The Council has failed to be transparent about its intentions, has misrepresented the nature of the new facility, has spent and committed yet more public funds without evidence and unnecessarily (added to which the is no way this could be classed as a priority when other services have been deprived of funding), failed to carry out consultation, breached its own planning policy (specific protection of the football ground – ADPP2 & CS18). It's also counter-intuitive to its long term regeneration goal as the new facility will be destroyed by future redevelopment!
See the news blog for how to object either online:
or by email to:
planapps.westberks.gov.uk quoting reference 19/00814/FUL
News updates February-March 2019
While West Berks Council denies any wrongdoing over the London Road estate fiasco, many questions on strategy and costs remain. As we get closer to the local elections on 2 May, the council goes on the charm offensive for votes with positively spun news on LRIE plans, the re-opening of Faraday Road for multi-sports and public consultations which have been scarce to-date!
Whatever your political colours, please do take time to understand the local issues which are important to you and vote for the party promising solutions (and then hold them to it!)
See the news blog for news articles, councillors' LRIE letters and more background information.
NCFG continues to question the council's attitude to football at its public meetings.
The third stage of our complaint is still being investigated thoroughly by the Local Government Ombudsman.
Newbury FC will move to Henwick (a football pitch, not a ground) with little hope of playing at Northcroft at a proper ground (if WBC deem it viable) for some years.
NCFG continues to support all local football clubs, growing its membership, and we eagerly await the Playing Pitch Strategy which is overdue publication.
News update 16/11/18
London Road development halted!
Please see the news blog and here for the press release
We had around a hundred attendees at our two successful public consultations at Document House on Thursday 13th September (thank you!). If you have any further questions about NCFG or our football ground improvement planning application, please contact us.
Our thanks to Michelle & Lee at Document House :)
And thank you to those few councillors who could make it to the briefing... if you wish to tell West Berks Council what you think, please contact their CEO firstname.lastname@example.org
Our petition for you to support our planning application for an all-weather pitch at Faraday Road, rather than the council's plan for flats, is now live, so please share it widely!
Please read an up-to-date summary of our position
Here is our mission statement
A FEW WORDS ABOUT US
NCFG was formed in late 2015 by members of local footballing organisations in reaction to the council's proposals to demolish the town's main football ground as part of a larger land redevelopment.
The group feels strongly that senior and youth football should retain its community home near the town centre and that the council has got its vision wrong.
Hundreds of children and teenagers play football in Newbury each week. This goes to the heart of improving health and wellbeing, as per West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) and the Government’s strategy. Closing the ground is fundamentally counter-productive.
Newbury Football Ground is crucial to retaining interest from young to teenage and beyond (aspiration to play at a higher, older age level and succession of players progressing) and it is Newbury’s premier ground.
Despite the best efforts of the volunteer group that has maintained the ground, it has suffered from chronic under-investment (including no public funding) which NCFG is aiming to address.
The FA concludes that West Berks needs at least four 3G/4G pitches.
The main objectives of WBC in redeveloping the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE, where the Faraday Road ground is) are regeneration and increased income from the land.
NCFG’s plan to develop Newbury Football Ground (NFG) into an exciting, multi-sport community facility for the community with artificial pitch(es) is financially sustainable and has the potential to dramatically improve the council’s income. It will therefore satisfy the above objectives and is in keeping with current strategies for regeneration/income enhancement from LRIE and improving wellbeing/health in West Berkshire (particularly for the young).
NCFG’s plan is compatible with the council’s objectives so we believe that the council should welcome it. In fact, NCFG is not proposing anything that opposes/damages the council’s strategy and objectives.
WBC’s draft Housing Site Allocations policy (see section 2.10 – 2.14 London Road Industrial Estate - Area of Regeneration) identifies that the area is not required for housing, so their proposal to redevelop the ground for flats is unsupported by evidence and planning policy.
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