ACV application causes concern over stadium plan
7:30am Fri Feb 17, 2017
The Stadium site, on Elm Avenue, Newark, could be sold to help pay for new football facilities.
The Stadium site, on Elm Avenue, Newark, could be sold to help pay for new football facilities.
There are fears plans to provide a multi-million-pound sports village in Newark could be derailed by moves to protect a crucial piece of land.
Newark Sports Association (NSA) is seeking to obtain Asset of Community Value status for The Stadium, a football pitch on Elm Avenue.

If granted, the status could safeguard the site from developers for six months, but the land is seen as crucial in helping to fund the football stadium aspect of a project by Nottinghamshire YMCA to build Newark and Sherwood Community Sports Village, off Bowbridge Road.

The Stadium is owned by Nottinghamshire County Council, which is in the process of transferring it to Newark and Sherwood District Council.

Proceeds from the eventual sale of the site, which has been unused in recent years, would go towards funding an FA-compliant stadium pitch and changing facilities.

The district council has backed Nottinghamshire YMCA to deliver new sports facilities, instead of the NSA, an umbrella organisation representing local clubs that drew up its own sports hub plan for the Bowbridge Road site, next to the new leisure centre.

'Ill-advised decision'

Mr Craig Berens, director of operations and programmes at Nottinghamshire YMCA, said the timing of the sport association’s Asset of Community Value application posed a serious risk to funding for their scheme.

He said the move put at risk the £1.5m already secured — £600,000 from the county and district councils and £900,000 in match-funding.

“We have had a good working relationship with NSA members and former chairman Steff Wright, yet we are shocked by the NSA’s ill-advised decision to register The Stadium pitch as an Asset of Community Value,” Mr Berens said.

“It throws elements of the project into real doubt.

“Our belief was the NSA understood the time-sensitive arrangements in place to progress the development of the Sports and Community Village in delivering exceptional facilities and a real community asset for local people.

“We have sought clarification from the NSA as a matter of urgency, but have not received a response addressing our concerns.”

When approached by the Advertiser, Mr Wright said submitting the Asset of Community Value application was one of the reasons he resigned as chairman of the NSA.

“The decision wasn’t something I was particularly enthusiastic about,” he said.

“At this stage people have to find ways to work together and not ways to play political games.”

'Raise the bar'

The secretary of Newark Sports Association, Mr Paul Baggaley, said: “Registering an ACV doesn’t stop the YMCA from developing their own business plan and putting in a planning application.

“What it does do is raise the bar and ensures what the YMCA are planning benefits everyone.

“If the site is registered as an Asset of Community Value and it is transferred and we get notification, we could bring forward a proposal that incorporates The Stadium site and a business plan for the hub site.

“It gives us an opportunity to build a proposal of our own. It doesn’t stop them doing anything and doesn’t jeopardise their plans or place a moratorium over what they are trying to do.

“If we had taken out an ACV on the whole site then they would have had every right to criticise us. We have taken it out on The Stadium site, which only gives us a shout.”

He said the NSA wanted to protect the community’s best interests and ensure what was provided in the future was not less than what the NSA had planned in terms of sports such as cycling, tennis and athletics.

“We have that in our plans and everyone has seen it,” he said.

He said the process of obtaining planning permission for The Stadium would be long and protracted as many people would be resistant.

'Delay, disrupt and derail'

The leader of the district council, Mr Roger Blaney, said: “It is difficult now to be able to encourage the YMCA to continue working alongside the NSA.

“It appears the NSA is doing everything to delay, disrupt and derail this.

“It is very sad. I hope that the NSA will recognise the opportunity they have and engage in this project properly.

“We know that the YMCA’s vision was better supported than the NSA’s proposition, which would have been difficult for them to obtain funding for.”

Mr Blaney did not believe an appearance of disharmony between the YMCA and the Newark Sports Association would affect the support of Sport England or sports governing bodies with money to spend.

“We are confident we have got the relevant national bodies’ funding in the right place on this project,” Mr Blaney said.

The district council will access the Asset of Community Value application.

“There is no political involvement or oversight. It is a matter of due process,” Mr Blaney said.

As well as a floodlit football stadium, the YMCA plans for the sports village include a cycle track, athletics track and all-weather facilities for football, hockey, tennis, basketball and netball.

Balderton Lake, which adjoins the site, could be used for canoeing and kayaking.

Support of England Athletics

Mr Berens said they had made a great deal of progress in recent weeks, meeting individuals, groups and national governing bodies.

“We are pleased to have recently secured the full support of England Athletics, who have backed our approach as the best way forward,” he said.

“Our plans ensure the sports and community village will enable families, children, young people and sporting clubs to share a positive space together.”

Mr Matt Foad, of England Athletics, said they were fully supportive of the YMCA plans for Newark.

“This plan from the YMCA makes perfect sense and will provide current and future athletes in Newark with an unrivalled facility that is safe for years to come,” he said.

“The partnership approach and vision of the YMCA is a winning combination.”

  • Newark Sports Association has also applied for an unrelated ACV for Newark Tennis Club’s facilities at the Lilley and Stone site, London Road.

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