By Ian Dipple Tuesday 22 October 2013 Updated: 25/10 07:55
COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of jeopardising the future of the town's football club by blocking plans for a new £3.3million stadium in the borough.
Redditch United chairman Chris Swan has outlined proposals to leave the club's Bromsgrove Road ground and build a new ground off Icknield Street Drive in Washford.
It includes the creation of a brand new stadium with modern facilities as well as a neighbouring 3G artificial pitch and smaller pitches to expand the club's junior section from the current 17 teams to 52. It would also allow the growing women's section of the club to develop further.
Mr Swan, who rescued the club from administration in 2011 and paid off its £200,000 debts, said the move would allow the club to improve its income streams, provide state of the art facilities for the town and make it financially sustainable long-term. It is currently losing £60,000 a year which the chairman is covering out of his own pocket but the new plans would see it make £12,000 a year instead.
"We've done an awful lot of work over the last two years but we are faced with the fact the facilities we have got here are dilapidated and not fit for purpose," he said.
"Our two main objectives are financial sustainability and providing football for all of the juniors and youngsters in Redditch, it's absolutely paramount and we won't be able to do that unless we get relocated into a new stadium."
The plans have been drawn up by Dutch Architechture and Design Ltd which has been involved with football ground redevelopments for 20 years, including work on West Bromwich Albion's ground.
The scheme would be funded through selling the current ground for housing, including up to 20 affordable homes, and grants from organisations including "six figure sums" from the Football Foundation.
No work on the new site would take place until the current stadium had been sold, which would require the club to play outside the borough for 12 months.
Mr Swan said they had three offers from developers interested in the land and their figures showed the scheme could deliver a surplus of between £600,000 to £2.2million for Redditch Borough Council who own both sites, depending on the amount of affordable housing provided.
But after presenting the plan to the controlling group of Labour councillors and deputy chief executive Sue Hanley, Mr Swan was informed they were not interested in proceeding with the plan and instead urged the club to look at redeveloping the current Valley Stadium site.
Mr Swan said the decision had left him "baffled and confused" and he had been given no "meaningful reasons" as to why they would not proceed with the scheme.
He added redeveloping the ground was not a sustainable option as it would be difficult to attract funding, which was time limited, and crucially would not include the 3G pitch which was vital to generate income, as should Redditch be promoted they would not be allowed to play there due to league rules around artificial surfaces.
"Clearly something has to be done we can't put our heads in the sand and that's been the problem with the club over the last God knows how many years," Mr Swan said.
"The club is at a major crossroads, something has got to happen, doing nothing is not an option.
"We would hope to engage with the council to find a solution to the very real needs and problems of the football club. In short, we would hope the council would want to get behind its local football club."
THE LEVEL of financial risk facing Redditch Borough Council was a major factor in their refusal to proceed with plans to relocate Redditch United.
Deputy chief executive Sue Hanley told Mr Swan in a letter sent in September councillors and officers had considered the proposals in detail and taken specialist advice but felt the benefits did not outweigh the risks.
They listed ten concerns including the fact the relocation site had restrictive covenants placed on it that would need to be breached to progress the project.
There are also a number of upfront costs associated with the scheme the council would have to pay for and if costs increased or the land failed to sell the council could be left in financial difficulty.
She said there were also planning implications to be addressed and the figures put forward by the club for the sale of the land have also been questioned as they are "vastly different from that advised by the District Valuer and the value placed on the land by the developer."
Ms Hanley added: "The leadership of the council acknowledges the substantial benefits which could be realised from a relocation, all of which have been considered in great detail, however consider the risks with the proposed scheme unfortunately do outweigh the benefits to the borough and its communities.
"The council wishes to continue to have a close working relationship with yourself and
RUFC and have asked Officers to continue to provide support and on-going dialogue
with the club."
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