Time to get rugby club’s design over the line
Twenty months have passed since I wrote about a workshop to talk about concepts for a new stadium on the Recreation Ground for Bath Rugby. At the time I said: “To be honest, it felt like Groundhog Day because we had run around this course many times before. But there was a positive spirit in the room and I left with quiet confidence that this time the process will deliver the development the club desperately need.” Since then the club has conducted what must be the most comprehensive consultation process ever carried out. It has explained its enthusiasm for keeping Premiership and European Rugby in the city, something that makes a tremendous contribution to the local economy. Just look at the number of people in the shops, bars and restaurants on a match day and don’t even try to calculate the value to Bath of those high shots over the abbey from the television cameras. The club has spoken to every interested party it can think of. Residents have had their say, community groups of all kinds have had a chance to make their opinions heard, even supporters have had a chance to chip in. But now comes the acid test with the unveiling of the final proposed design for a stadium fit for the 21st century, providing a proper stage for the team, a sustainable business model for the company, facilities for the community, not to mention much needed underground car parking. Doubtless not everyone will approve of every element, but surely this is the moment to produce such a groundswell of popular support that politicians will give the necessary planning consent to get the building work under way. It would be great to think that might happen before we get caught up in the local election campaign. I don’t suppose the club would say this, but in my personal opinion I think it’s no exaggeration to say that if the plans don’t get the green light this time, there has to be a real risk that they’ll up sticks and go elsewhere, which would be nothing short of a tragedy for the city.
Bath Rugby makes a tremendous contribution to the local economy, writes Ian Bell