Rugby stadium comes step closer as new way forward for The Rec backed
A proposal which would pave the way for Bath Rugby to build a new, bigger stadium on the Rec was backed by councillors at a meeting last night.
The Board of Trustees of the Recreation Ground met at the Guildhall to discuss a draft scheme which will be officially put forward by the Charity Commission to end the long-running dispute over the use of the city centre site.
It would allow the trust to grant a new lease to Bath Rugby, which would give them a greater portion of the Rec in exchange for what was the club’s Lambridge training ground.
That proposal - officially known as a scheme - has been published today and interested parties will have one month to make representations.
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Last night’s meeting was attended by people from all sides of the debate including the Friends of the Recreation Ground (FotRG), who are strongly opposed to any Bath Rugby development, and the rival Real Friends of The Rec (RFotR), who want to see the proposed changes come into place.
Jill McGarrigle, from the FotRG, described it as a “scam” not a scheme and said it was a “tragic day” for the people of Bath.
She said: “Everyone involved should hang their heads in shame and reflect on the damage this will do to the city.”
Many people commented on the short length of the statutory notice period, particularly over the festive season, but were told that was the usual timeframe set by the charities watchdog.
Councillor David Dixon, who is the chair of the trustees, also reminded them that a major consultation was carried out last year, in which 77 per cent of the 4,515 people who took part strongly agreed with the proposal.
Bath and North East Somerset Council’s strategic director (resources) Andrew Pate reassured people that this was an “enabling” exercise to alter the trust so new decisions could be made about the future of the Rec.
He stressed that the finer detail of any land swap arrangement would need to be dealt with on a separate date and that the rugby club would have to get planning permission for any new stadium.
A new group, made up of a number of former professional sportsmen and film director Ken Loach, also made a statement at the meeting, saying there was much to welcome in the draft scheme, but asking for clarification on to what extent the Rec would still be available for all sports.
It said: “We recognise that development is needed but let it be all embracing and not just for rugby.
“The proposal should not lose sight of the culture of the city, with the Rec being the centre for a wide range of activities for all to enjoy and not just one commercial body.”
Bath Rugby, which wants to build a new stadium with a capacity of between 17,000 and 18,000 and, as it is at present, three permanent sides and one temporary east stand, was represented by chief executive Nick Blofeld, who did not speak.
To make a representation on the scheme go to www.charitycommission.gov.uk/our_regulatory_activity/compliance_work/schemes/ and click on “see a complete list of all schemes and orders currently open for representation”.
Alternatively you can write to Charity Commission, PO Box 1227, Liverpool, L69 3UG.