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AMBITIOUS concept plans to turn Stratford Sports Club into a multi-million pound state-of-the-art facility have been revealed.
Project Rubicon, expected to cost just under £15million plus VAT, will see the Swans Nest Lane venue transformed into a building which will allow a variety of sports to continue in the area for the foreseeable future.
Sports club chairman Peter Jones told the Herald: “We started off thinking of smaller plans about 18 months ago, but at the end of the day we wanted to make a big change so we got really stuck into what the sports club could be and it’s a very visionary plan.
“The whole funding model will be critical to achieve all the elements of the concept plans, but I think going big is sometimes easier for funding than messing around the periphery.
“The town will benefit massively if it all comes to fruition, it’s certainly a big step for the sports club.”
The cost of the project has been based on Sport England benchmarks for the construction of other comparable facilities and rates per square metre for new builds and refurbishments.
Funding sources potentially available to the club include the national government, the Hockey Foundation, Sport England, the National Lottery and section 106 monies, also known as developer contributions.
As part of the project – named after the phrase ‘crossing the Rubicon’, a metaphor which means to take an irrevocable step that commits one to a specific course – half of the building will be retained and the other half demolished to make way for a new extension.
The retained part of the site, labelled as phase 2B, will be renovated and modernised and will include changing rooms and toilets, a gym, gym studios and boxing.
Phase one of the project will be to build four new squash courts with spectator seating, changing rooms, toilets, offices and a reception. There will also be two covered indoor cricket pitches with nets as well as four covered tennis courts.
Also included in phase one is the building of a multi-purpose function room, which will act as a base for snooker and the Sea Cadets.
Phase 2A of the new-build incorporates changing rooms for cricket, a bar and kitchen as well as conference facilities.
Mr Jones added: “All through the pandemic we’ve managed to slowly but surely put the pieces of the jigsaw together, sometimes by video calls, over weeks and months.
“We know something like this is going to take time, but once you’ve got the outside elements in place, it’s quite exciting to piece the rest of the proverbial planning jigsaw together.
“Inclusivity is a key point. It’s about making facilities inclusive for the whole community. We’re not just an exclusive club for
those good at sport. This is a much wider and diverse plan that will make facilities available for the whole community.”
The sports club is also thinking about the possibility of building a hockey pitch on the River Avon floodplain. HR Wallingford was commissioned to produce a flood risk assessment of the land. It reported that space in an area known as flood zone 3B would be safe to incorporate the pitch.
However, a number of conditions must be met before the Environment Agency would even consider this proposal. There must be no net loss to floodplain storage, the water flows must not be impeded, there must be no increased risk of flooding elsewhere and there must be no additional pollution.
With that in mind, the land to the south of the sports club, known as the Onion Fields, could be explored for compensation storage. The proposed plan would see the compensation storage constructed as part of a new nature reserve on top of a new entrance along Seven Meadows Road to satisfy Highways Agency concerns.
The potential for a new housing development on the land has also been mooted. Stratford-based estate agents Sheldon Bosley Knight (SBK) represent the landowners of the Onion Fields and the club believes the hockey pitch development is achievable in collaboration with SBK.
SBK director and co-owner Dan Jackson said: “On behalf of my clients, we have been working very closely with Stratford Sports Club and Stratford District Council, and we are very excited by the proposals which have our full support.”
Although Stratford District Council could not say too much at this stage as Project Rubicon is subject to planning permission and land leases, a spokesperson said: “It is good to see the emerging plans for Stratford Sports Club, which have the potential to create an exciting new facility to support sport in the town.”
So what happens next? The sports club hopes to submit a joint pre-planning application with SBK and make sure they comply with tier three of Sport England’s mandatory governance standards to be eligible for significant grant funding. Fundraising plans will also be developed alongside a 25-year business strategy. The sports club then hopes to submit a joint full planning application in 12 months.
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