In April 2016, The Football Association of England (FA) identified the need for an additional 4 and half full size pitches in West Berkshire to meet current demand of football across the community. The FA also criticised West Berkshire Council's lack of a Pitch Playing Strategy (PPS). [2020 update - we need 8 pitches now, but there is a PPS]
Newbury has a long history of formally organised local football stretching back to 1887 when its first team was officially formed. Newbury Football Ground, the only one in Newbury, has stood on this site since 1963 and has been used by all ages across the generations. The clubhouse has been regularly used by the community for social gatherings and club meetings for over 50 years.
A building or a piece of land is deemed to have a community value if:
1. The use of the land or building currently, or in the recent past, furthers the social wellbeing or cultural, recreation or sporting interests of the local community;
Newbury Football Ground is used multiple times each week as both a social and sporting facility by a wide range of community groups, and has been for many decades.
2. The use of the building (as described above) will continue to further the social wellbeing or interests of the local community.
There is a large and growing need by the local community to use this facility which goes to the heart of community wellbeing, especially for the young. A petition to support the continued use of the ground has reached around 7,000 signatures!
3. The use of the building or land must not be deemed "ancillary", i.e. of secondary purpose. This means that the use of the land or building to further the social wellbeing or interests must be its principal use.
Newbury Football Ground’s principal use is social wellbeing and sporting interests.
AFC Newbury Boys & Girls, a voluntary organisation, provides football to over 300 local boys and girls each week and a range of teams use the ground every month for league matches, championship cup games and training sessions. Senior football provides progression for young players which is crucial to securing ongoing involvement in the game.
The venue is often used by the Berkshire Schools Association as well as a range of FA Youth League teams. Newbury Ladies FC have used the Ground in the past and wish to use it in the future, as do the Newbury District Primary Schools FA.
Under the right circumstances, additional funding can be raised to both enhance and (should the opportunity arise) expand the facilities. There is factual evidence of consistent and frequent use and of even stronger demand if facilities are protected and improved.
As well as being essential for Newbury FC’s senior teams, a long term or permanent right to use the facility is vital to securing investment and thereby upkeep and improvement of facilities for all users.
A successful senior team is important to the community and its fan base but, more importantly, it is vital as a progression route (pathway) for young players. The absence of a successful senior team will directly discourage young players from remaining in the sport after their teenage years.
Security of tenure (and worse, avoiding the potential loss of the facility) is necessary to preserve the facility for local cup and league fixtures at all levels of football but particularly young teams. It will also secure charity events such as the Big Match which in June 2016 raised £50,000, the best ever result for the charity, despite playing previous Big Match events at Reading FC's Madjeski Stadium.
Security of tenure will open up opportunities for investment, particularly from external sources like Sport England, The FA, local businesses, sponsoship, the Lottery Fund and West Berkshire Council’s Section 106/CIL pool for funding Public Open Space.
Newbury is familiar with the benefits for the community and local economy of successful sporting venues. With the right support and focus, a footballing facility can make an equally important contribution.
In addition to finding strong support in West Berks Council’s Core Strategy land use planning policies, the preservation and enhancement of the facility goes to the very heart of the Council’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy, particularly for young people. It also finds favour with the aspirations in Newbury Vision (2026) to enhance facilities for the young, improve sporting assets and attract people to the Town Centre.
•Newbury FC 1st Team
•Newbury FC Reserve Team
•Newbury Ladies Football Club
•AFC Newbury Boys and Girls Under 18’s team
•AFC Newbury Boys and Girls Under 17’s team
•AFC Newbury Boys and Girls Under 16’s team
•AFC Newbury Boys and Girls Under 15’s team
•Southcote Under 16’s
•AFC Newbury Free Taster Session Training for Under 6’s (school year 1)
•Berks and Bucks FA U18 Team
•Gloucester FA U18 Team
•Newbury and District Sunday League - Vic Cup Final Wilshire FA U18 Team
•Newbury and District Sunday League - Bowness Knock Out Cup Final Newbury & District Sunday League - Lakeside Cup Final
•Saturday Junior Cup Final
•FA Inter-League Cup Extra Preliminary Round
•The Stryker Cup Final
•Berkshire Schools Association - Elm Park Cup Final Under 14 Boys
•Berkshire Schools Association - Walsh Park Cup Final Under 18 Boys
•Berkshire Schools Association - Neil Wright Cup Final Under 15 Boys
•Berkshire Schools Association - Inter-County Reed Final Under 14 Boys
•Berkshire Schools Association - Edgecombe Cup Final Under 12 Boys
•Berkshire Schools Association - County Cup Final Under 14 Girls
•Berkshire Schools Association - County Cup Final Under 14 Boys
•English Schools FA - South West Counties Inter-County Championship Final - U16 Girls
•Berkshire Schools Association - County Cup Final Under 16 Boys v Girls
•The Big Match 2016
To ensure there is a good supply of high quality playing pitches and playing fields to meet the sporting needs of local communities, all local authorities should have an up-to-date PPS. By providing valuable evidence and direction a PPS can be of significant benefit to a wide variety of parties and agendas. The following are some of the key drivers for football:
• Provide an up-to-date understanding of supply and demand for football in West Berkshire in support of the FA ambition of getting more people playing the game.
• Protect and improve quality of football pitches and ancillary facilities as current and future demand requires.
• Identify the broad issues that need to be addressed for football, pitch utilisation, quality and maintenance issues, access, barriers to participation and wider action needed to address these.
• Provide evidence to support towards more strategic and sustainable provision, e.g. sports hubs – future demand/park life.
• Understand the implications of any budget reductions and impact on the game and address these by planned, sustainable and consultative solutions in order to protect and enhance the game.
• Identify potential improvements to management arrangements for key sports sites by determining the key elements that deliver sustainability.
• Determine the future role of 3G Football Turf Pitches (FTP) in sustaining and growing the game in West Berkshire.
The assessment and strategy are required to assist in sport and recreation facility development and provide a robust and up-to-date evidence base to support planning policy documents, development management decisions, infrastructure planning, funding bids and investment decisions.
The lack of an up-to-date, playing pitch strategy in West Berkshire undermines the Council's ability to make fully informed decisions on the future pitch provision in West Berkshire.
[2020 update - WBC finally got round to listening to Sport England in 2019 and jointly developed a PPS with the major sports bodies, but sadly the council only adopted the draft version which has no timescale for the reprovision of the Faraday Road ground, so we are uncertain what will happen and when]
Newbury Football Ground and clubhouse is extensively used as a social venue for hire. It offers a low-cost licensed clubhouse facility and, due to its location away from the central pubs and clubs of Newbury and being adjacent to a car park, is popular with the older generations of the Newbury community, particularly for 60th, 70th and 80th birthday parties as well as wakes, wedding and christening receptions. It is also used by local groups for club and manager/coach meetings. Bookings reduced in 2015 onwards after news reports of the club's closure created uncertainty for those arranging events.
As well as having a key role in the community for football, Newbury Football Ground is also frequently used by the local community for both fundraising events and social events. For example the Jake Charity Day, Charity Match for Rory Rowbottom, Tahlia Luella’s Easter Family Fun, Will Pemberton Breast Charity Fundraising Night, Sandra Talman Charity Match and a series of non-published fundraising events for cancer charities have all used the Faraday Road Stadium free-of-charge and all raising significant amount of monies from within the local community.
In February 2016, The Big Match announced they would hold their large-scale, annual charity football match at Newbury Football Ground in June 2016. The Big Match features a large cast of celebrities, ex-professional players and members of the public and raises money for The Brain Tumour Charity and Action for Children. Newbury Football Ground was selected to host The Big Match, even though that in past years has been held at Madejski Stadium in Reading.
Football use aside, the significance of the clubhouse in terms of community value should not be under-estimated and is a significant factor in the ACV application too. The current West Berkshire register of Community Right to Bid Assets of Community Value (Localism Act 2011) lists 9 Assets, of which 7 are pubs or licensed premises.
The group has a clear vision and plan to develop the ground into a modern, integrated football facility for all of the local community. NCFG has engaged with key associations including Sport England, the FA and the Berks & Bucks FA, all of whom are very supportive of the concept of developing and modernising the ground.
3G pitches are important for multi-use sports grounds, with several games a day easily playable, unlike grass pitches which can support limited games due to wear and tear, without expensive and intensive ground maintenance.
The FA 3G mapping (April 2016), identified the need for an additional 4 and half full size 3G pitches in West Berkshire to meet current demand. [By 2020 this was 8 pitches!]
There are 15 3G pitches within the area covered by the Berks & Bucks FA, but only one 3G pitch in all of West Berkshire. This is at Park House School and whilst widely used by a range of football groups, it is expensive to rent (prices were increased by 50% in June 2016) and relatively inaccessible due to high demand. This 3G pitch is no longer licensed by the FA due to the cost of maintenance and as a result, Newbury uniquely amongst the main towns in the surrounding area, does not have any 3G facilities sanctioned for league matches (Berks & Bucks has 14 compared to Hampshire’s 26). As a major town in Berkshire with a population exceeding 41,000, (the population is forecast to grow dramatically over the next ten years, possibly heading towards 50,000.) Newbury should clearly have at its heart a community-use 3G pitch and associated clubhouse facilities. Newbury Football Ground is perfectly positioned to support such future development.
These three partners have committed further funding into the Football Foundation with a new agreement lasting to 2013. The Foundation has been working closely with its Trustees with a view to introducing revised funding criteria with the emphasis on making the maximum impact with the available budget.
The Football Foundation is currently accepting new Expressions of Interest for those who want to apply for facility funding. These Expressions of Interest will be managed under the current process in partnership with The FA and County Football Associations. Further information can be found here.
There is typically a 3 year pay-back on 3G pitch investment and, given Newbury is currently devoid of a facility, a 3G facility at Newbury Football Ground would be in very high demand and, along with income from the clubhouse social facilities, be able to sustain itself financially as well as providing a cost effective rental arrangement to non-commercial community sporting groups.
A number of local businesses have indicated an interest in providing sponsorship should the facility be protected for future use. Added to this, Section 106 money received by West Berkshire Council pre-April 2014 and/or CIL payments received post April 2014 might be available to fund improvements and expansion, if agreed.
At the heart of the new strategy sit five outcomes: physical health, mental health, individual development, social & community development and economic development. All Government funding for sport and physical activity will go to organisations which can best demonstrate that they will deliver some or all of these five outcomes.
And with Government support, further funds have also been dedicated to build up to 150 new ‘Parklife’ football hubs across as many as 30 cities - with a pilot scheme only months from commencement in Sheffield.
There are four key pillars of the strategy:
• Participation – More people playing football more often with a particular boost for female participation.
• Player Development – Invest £16m into coaching & competition format and FA skills programme 5–11 years.
• Football Workforce – Run the game more efficiently.
• Facilities – Invest £48m into new and improved facilities through the Football Foundation.
• Create 100 new football turf pitches (3G) and improve 2,000 grass pitches.
• Invest in and roll out a new sustainable model for grassroots facilities in 30 cities through football hubs owned and operated by local communities.
• Ensure half of mini-soccer and youth matches are played on high quality artificial grass pitches.
The FA launched its first Facility Strategy seeking to implement the following vision: Build, protect and enhance sustainable football facilities to improve the experience of the Nations Favourite Game.
The strategy is made up of 5 key strands:
• Leading the development of technical standards.
• Facility planning protection of playing fields.
• Supporting club and league volunteers.
• Targeted facility improvement schemes.
• Capital investment.
The Strategy also reinforces the urgent need to provide affordable, new and improved facilities in schools, clubs and on local authority sites where there is community use. Of particular interest is working with Charter Standard Community Clubs to work through asset transfer opportunities to reduce the reliance on the public sector.
Over 80% of football is played on public sector facilities rather than in private members’ clubs. The leisure budgets of most local authorities have been reduced over recent years as priorities have been in other sectors. The loss of playing fields has also been well documented and adds to the pressure on the remaining facilities to cope with the demand, especially in urban areas.
1. Reduce football’s reliance on local authority subsidies.
2. Build significantly more AGP’s (3G artifical grass pitches).
3. Build a sustainable model that makes this change happen.
It concluded that by mapping current and future participation requirements in a city against existing and potential new facilities, a pitch blueprint will be produced. This blueprint will identify the ‘appropriate’ number of core football hubs at which the city’s football demands can be met by the provision of high quality AGPs – The City Football Hub Model.
Each football hub will differ depending on local circumstances but typically each would be floodlit and provide changing, classroom and catering facilities. A football hub will be used to host both formal league fixtures on weekends and recreational/informal football opportunities during the week, but with particular emphasis on:
• Ensuring where possible all mini-soccer and kids football up to the age of 13 is played on AGPs.
• Allowing all County FA and local pro-club youth development and FA coach education programmes to be facilitated on AGPs.
• Providing high quality natural turf pitches where appropriate.
• Providing midweek affordable training opportunities for local clubs.
• Optimising school and community usage during off-peak hours.
By 2020 there would be:
• A 130% increase in the number of top quality AGPs in England’s 30 biggest cities (an increase from 218 to 5012).
• A 50% increase in the total number of AGPs in England over four years bringing the total to over 1,000 pitches compared with 639 currently.
• More than 150 new football owned and managed football hubs to support the delivery of FA, County FA and professional club youth development and coach education programmes.
• Over 50% of all mini-soccer and youth football matches being played on the best quality AGPs.
The FA 3G mapping (April 2016), identified the need for an additional 4 and half full size 3G pitches in West Berkshire to meet current demand [8 by 2020]. This is based on an average of 42 teams per week training for at least 1 hour on a 3G pitch based on current team data. Further more detail analysis is required to map match play demand and future growth.
It is anticipated that the principles of the city football hub model will cascade down to all Local Authorities as part of Local Football Investment Plans through County Football Associations.
It is anticipated that these plans should be linked to strategic priorities identified through Playing Pitch Strategies.
• Creating environments where healthy choices are the easy choices.
• Tackling inequalities in health, making the health and wellbeing of the people who are the worst off in our district as good as the most affluent.
• Forming partnerships with the voluntary and community sector and the residents and service users of West Berkshire.
In this respect, Newbury Football Ground makes a vitally important contribution:
• There is easy access to the grounds which is a 2 minutes’ walk from Newbury Town Centre, as such it can be readily reached by all in West Berkshire.
• The ground is accessible by walking, cycling, driving, bus and train, helping to create a healthy and easily accessible facility.
• The accessibility of the grounds and the fact that all users could use the facilities free of charge directly achieves the aims of involving all members of the community, regardless of economic background.
• The ground and clubhouse facility is and will continue to be run by volunteers, at no cost to the public purse. This arrangement has been in place for over 21 years.
West Berks Council’s strategy for Health and Wellbeing states “Our communities will be enabled and empowered to have control over their own health and wellbeing”. A petition to protect, preserve and enhance the Newbury Football Ground and clubhouse has so far attracted over 7,000 signatures, a clear signal that the community’s vision for health in West Berkshire includes a home for football in central Newbury.
Part of the council’s vision for health, centres around making the best use of public money. Newbury Football Ground has been run at nil cost to the public purse, and for ten years has paid rent to the council thereby making a net contribution to public finances.
As a community service run by volunteers, Newbury Football Ground accomplishes the aims of The Vision for Health and Wellbeing:
• Delivered to relative need: Newbury Football Ground is the major facility for footballers of all ages in West Berkshire. There is a definite need for a high quality football pitch, which Newbury Football Ground satisfies.
• Accessible to all, taking into account disabilities: The ground is fully accessible to all, including disable access.
• Provide value for money: The ground is financially independent and receives no public funding, the club factually makes a contribution to the public purse through the payment of rent and rates.
•The facility is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable: The facility is used by a large number of football teams, community groups and social users. It is in an environmentally sustainable location which is easily accessible via public transport and by pedestrian means.
The Council’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy clearly states that the Councils priorities “include promoting healthier lifestyles”. Numerous studies have proven that sports (particularly football) are a major contributor to the social, physical and mental health and wellbeing of all members of society, particularly the young.
Furthermore, West Berkshire Council aims to increase ‘opportunities for residents to be more physically active’. The Newbury Football Ground makes a meaningful contribution to this objective.
Whilst the obesity levels in West Berkshire are slightly below national averages, obesity is still prevalent in the area. The World Health Organisation is clear that regular physical activity, such as sports, positively affects health and reduces risks of diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Participation is sports has also been proven to improve mental health.
Moreover, the Newbury Vision aims to increase opportunities for the growth of recreational and sporting facilities in the town. Newbury Football Ground is one of the principle facilities in the town and makes a very positive and considerable contribution to this aim.
Another aspiration of the Vision is to ensure that the London Road Industrial Estate contributes to the town’s Green Infrastructure. The Newbury Football Ground is located on the edge of the London Road Industrial Estate and will self-evidently contribute to this aspiration.
“Existing community facilities will be protected and, where appropriate, enhanced. These include leisure and cultural facilities, which contribute to the attraction of the town for both residents and visitors.”
West Berkshire Council’s interactive map identifies Newbury Football Ground as a cultural facility as can be seen from the screenshot below:
CS.18 goes further in explaining why West Berkshire’s green infrastructure, (which by reference includes Newbury Football Ground) is essential for the vitality of the area; “The multi-functional nature of GI in the District is important for many reasons. It contributes significantly to the quality of life for residents, workers and visitors, in terms of both visual amenity and for sport and recreation purposes”. As an area of open green space and a provider of healthy social activity, the Football Ground is fundamental to the quality of residents’ lives in West Berkshire.
Paragraph 5.124 provides a definition of Green Infrastructure, which includes:
Outdoor sports facilities (with natural or artificial surfaces, either publicly or privately owned) – including tennis courts, bowling greens, sports pitches, golf courses, athletics tracks, school and other institutional playing fields, and other outdoor sports areas.”
Paragraph 5.129 names Newbury Football Grounds as part of West Berks’ Green Infrastructure and sporting provision:
“sports clubs with good facilities such as Newbury Rugby Club, Newbury Town, Thatcham Town and Hungerford Town Football Clubs, …..”
As part of West Berkshire’s Green Infrastructure, Newbury Football Ground is to be protected and enhanced, meaning that the provision of a high quality green space for local residents will be maintained for future generations.
Security of tenure will facilitate funding from external sources including the FA, local sponsorship and the Council’s S106/CIL funding pool for Public Open Space.
Statement of requirements for the community needs for the Faraday Road football facility existing and future:
• Ground to FA Step 5 (Grade F) standard
• Car park for visiting supporters
• Central to town centre for home supporters (pedestrian)
• 3 weekend matches every week
• 2 mid-week matches every week
• 5 squad training sessions every week
• Bar and kitchen (for financial self-funding)
Detail of usage:
• 1 x Senior match every Saturday, (alternating between Mens 1st team, Men’s Reserve Team
• 2 x Junior matches every Sunday (Junior in morning and Youth in afternoon)
• 1 Ladies match on alternate Sundays
• 1 x U18 mid-week youth match
• 2 x Senior training sessions mid-week (every week)
• 2 x Youth training sessions mid-week (every week)
• 1 x U6-7 taster session training every Saturday morning (March-July)