Dragons are running out of options

EVO-STIK League Southern Basingstoke Town have gone back to the drawing board to find a new home and secure their long-term future after their local authority blocked their final hopes for a new stadium.

The Dragons were putting together contingency plans this weekend after Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council refused planning permission for a new 5,000 capacity home and training facility at Old Oak Common funded by the redevelopment of their current home as part of a £10 million project.

An alternative “compromise option” to move to the Hampshire Football Association’s Winklebury site has also been ruled out as the county FA have recently submitted their own expansion proposals to the council.

With chairman Rafi Razzak ending his financial support when he leaves at the end of the season and hoping to clear the club’s debts and finance a new stadium with the redevelopment of The Camrose for retail and housing, fans were warned on Friday that it was "no longer economically or practicably feasible" to stay put next season, throwing their entire future into doubt.

In a lengthy statement before their 2-1 reverse at King’s Lynn Town in the EVO-STIK League Southern’s top flight, Razzak said they were now running out of options after being told there was no council-owned land suitable for relocation following strong opposition from local residents concerned over loss of open space and the impact on wildlife.

Razzak said: “This was effectively Plan A – ‘Lite’, a smaller capacity ground than proposed for Old Oak Common, but requiring millions of pounds for the new build. The only way we could deliver this was via approval of a retail development for Camrose, i.e. a high value land redevelopment. It is clear from our informal discussions with BDBC, that they would probably favour a housing proposal for Camrose. This would constitute a lower value redevelopment scheme and would result in substantially diminished capital available to re-site BTFC.”

“As a result, BTFC looked at redeveloping the Winklebury football site, currently occupied by Hampshire Football Association. With previous football activity at the site and space, in our view, to accommodate both Hampshire FA and BTFC, this seemed like an ideal compromise. This would be an enhancement of an existing football facility and so would require considerably less expenditure than developing from scratch on a green field site.

“The Winklebury redevelopment would be possible with an appropriate housing scheme at Camrose. However, through ongoing discussions with the Council and the Hampshire FA, this is no longer an option. Hampshire FA has been in discussion with BDBC for some time and has recently submitted detailed plans, very similar to those BTFC were working on, for the redevelopment of the Winklebury site for their own needs.

"Hampshire FA considered leaving the site, but has decided to stay and increase its use of the facilities at Winklebury. They do not want any partners and have developed a business plan that would not allow enough pitch time for BTFC. I have no issue with Hampshire FA’s proposals as they are simply trying to utilise the site more effectively and become more self-sufficient.

"Effectively we have wasted time and money looking at this scheme and we are very disappointed with the lack of tangible help from BDBC, which despite encouraging us to submit proposals over several years, stopped our original plans for a new stadium in the town last year. At numerous meetings since then, they have offered to help, but in reality they have not offered any new sites for us to consider and they seem unlikely to allow a retail development at Camrose – which could help BTFC to build a new stadium within the town.”

He added: “We are now left with few options, and anything we do from now will only involve ourselves. It’s very sad indeed.”

Image courtesy of basingstoketown.net

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Where next?

Saturday's Central Division action review The EVO-STIK League Southern Division One Central title race isn`t over yet but Royston Town ensured Farnborough remained seventeen points behind them with a game in hand after the two sides drew a 3-3 on Saturday, writes Pitchero's Steve Whitney.
Saturday's Premier Division action review Chippenham Town made it twenty matches unbeaten and lead the EVO-STIK League Southern's Premier Division table by four points from a Leamington outfit who made it nine games without defeat on Saturday, writes Pitchero's Steve Whitney.

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