Financial fears lead to stadium move rejection

By Ian Dipple Wednesday 27 November 2013 Updated: 28/11 08:55

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Buy photos » Reds player Jim Mutton and former player Pat Bray hand over the petition to council leader Bill Hartnett. Picture by Ian Dipple (s).

COUNCILLORS have rejected Redditch United's bid to relocate but have ordered all other options are explored to support the club's future development.

About 200 supporters, players and officials packed into the Town Hall on Tuesday (November 26) to hear members of Redditch Borough Council's decision-making executive committee rule on the proposed move to a new £3.3million stadium in Washford.

A petition signed by more than 2,200 people backing the relocation was handed over during the meeting and a number of speakers highlighted the need for modern facilities to support the expanding junior and women's sections as well as make the club financially sustainable going forward.

Ella Rowberry, who plays for Redditch United under-7s, said: "I love playing for Redditch United why won't you help and support the club."

But after two hours of debate it was decided by ruling Labour councillors the council would not allow the Valley Stadium to be sold for housing to fund the move. Instead it was agreed to ask officers and the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee to investigate the need for footballing provision in the borough, continue to work with the club to find ways of meeting demand and consult the public. It was also decided to freeze the club's rent at £2,000 a year until 2017.

The Conservative councillors on the committee accused Labour of rushing the decision and called for the decision to be deferred to allow the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to investigate the business case behind the move fully.

But the call was rejected as it was felt after two years of discussions a decision needed to be made.

The main reason for rejecting the relocation was the financial risk to the council as the valuation put on the land by the developer consulted by the club varied significantly from the independent district valuer, although councillors did not reveal the figures in public saying they had been asked not to by the club.

It was also claimed the provision of 40 per cent affordable housing on the Valley Stadium site would drive the price down further and only 50 homes and not the 78 mooted could be provided on the land without changes to the road access which would require further investment. Planners also indicated they would not support the use of the Valley Stadium site for housing.

Coun Rebecca Blake said she shared the club's ambition to improve the current football facilities and secure an all weather 3G pitch for the town and agreed doing nothing was not an option.

But she added: "My three priorities do not stand in isolation. I will not support undue financial risk to the council in my pursuit to get these priorities."

Deputy council leader Greg Chance said: "When I first heard about this I was really excited about it but the more I look at it I've got real concerns. If we are going to make a radical move to further football in Redditch then we have to get it right, if we don't instead of everybody being a winner, the town loses out, it costs the town a lot of money and football loses out."

He added: "This is the beginning of the process. Let's be positive and look forward to how we can improve things. At the end of this we want a stronger, better Redditch United."

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