Bid to have Rec made into town green provokes backlash
A resident opposed to moves to give Bath Rugby a greater share of the Recreation Ground has applied for the site to be made an official town green.
But the application by retired NHS IT manager Jack Sparrow has been dismissed as a “stalling tactic” by the politician at the heart of the process of sorting out the Rec’s future.
Mr Sparrow, from Bathwick, has lodged an application under the 2006 Commons Act to have the whole of the Rec, including the city’s leisure centre, designated as a town green.
Such a status would make it more difficult for new development to take place there, and similar applications were used in an effort to stop the Bus Rapid Transit scheme in Newbridge.
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Anyone wanting to apply for such a designation has to prove that there has been use of the land for recreation over a long period of time.
Mr Sparrow’s submission says the land had been used - and continues to be used - “as of right by the inhabitants of the city of Bath for at least 20 years for lawful sports and pastimes.”
He also points to the 1956 covenant governing the Rec, drawn up when the land was given to the old city council.
The Rec’s delicate charitable status has held up Bath Rugby’s plans to develop a larger arena for more than a decade.
The Charity Commission last month launched a consultation into plans to allow the club to have a bigger area on the Rec, in return for its former training ground at Lambridge passing into public ownership.
Around 2,000 people took part in that exercise, and the commission is currently deciding whether to allow the shake-up to progress.
Mr Sparrow, who has lived in Bath since 1983, said the solution currently being looked at was “a disaster”.
“I would like to see the Rec returned to open space. I don’t mind amateur rugby being played there, but Bath Rugby are abusing the situation. They have outgrown the Rec.”
He said the rugby club’s current main lease allowed for a “ridiculously low” rent, and that a proper lease payment should be being paid with regard to the leisure centre.
The chairman of the Bath Recreation Ground Trust, Councillor David Dixon, who has been working with the commission, B&NES Council, residents and the club to square the circle for the future, said: "This is merely a stalling tactic, an application which in my view fails on many accounts as a town village green, not least there is a leisure centre in existence and people, are not free to access the land, as all sports and activities are to be booked and paid for through the trust.
“Mr Sparrow and his colleagues simply do not want the trust to resolve the outstanding issues, do not want more land brought under the trust's management in order for it to meet it objectives of making space available of sports, recreation and events.
“How much longer they want the issues the trust face to go unresolved, who knows? This is now in its 11th year and this is the year to resolve issues one way or another."
The trust will be objecting to the application, saying that designation would limit its ability to manage its land in a way that fulfils its objectives. The trust said the land it would gain at Lambridge would be more than double the new footprint of the club at the Rec.
“The new arrangements will provide a substantially improved and secure income stream for the trust. This will allow it to invest in facilities, improve maintenance standards and promote the development of sport and recreation. The trust believes that its proposal is in the best interests of the beneficiaries and is the right way forward for the Rec.”