THE people in charge of West Berkshire Council have refused to scrap plans to build a new sports stadium Newbury, which have been described as “madness”.

The Conservative-run council wants to construct a floodlight stadium with an artificial grass pitch, changing rooms and a function room, at Newbury Rugby Club and open it in March 2022.

The council says it will “serve as a replacement” for Newbury Football Club’s Faraday Road ground, after it was closed in 2018 to make way for the London Road Industrial Estate redevelopment.

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No planning application has been submitted yet, as the council is holding negotiations with the rugby club about renting the land and drawing up a budget.

Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors called on the Tories who run the council to abandon the project and reopen the Faraday Road ground or find space for another ground in Newbury town centre, at a meeting on March 2.

Cllr Tony Vickers (Liberal Democrat) said: “We just want to see some football taking place in the centre of our town.”

He added: “The proposals for a new ground at Newbury Rugby Club are sketchy, badly thought out and will be a drain on council resources for years to come.”

Cllr David Marsh (Green Party) said the new ground will not be a “like-for-like replacement for the existing football ground” in Newbury.

He also raised concerns about the cost of the new stadium and said Newbury Rugby Club will charge “a very large rent”.

“It’s pure financial madness. It will be a drain on council taxpayers for years,” he said.

“The council owns Faraday Road and there’s no need to pay rent.

“It would cost less to run a refurbished Faraday Road and it would bring in revenue and make a profit.”

Cllr Marsh also described the London Road Industrial Estate project, that was first announced in 2003, as a “speculative venture” and a “complete cock up”.

Nothing has been built on that site since the council evicted Newbury Football Club in 2018.

That’s because the project suffered a major setback in 2018, when the Court of Appeal ruled the council had breached EU law by failing to follow the correct procurement process when it appointed St Modwen Plc as the developer.

However, it is back on track and the council wants to begin construction in two years and complete the project by 2030.

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Cllr Lee Dillon (Liberal Democrat) said the council is “wasting money” by leaving the Faraday Road ground empty until the site is redeveloped.

He added: “It’s going to cost £2 per resident to guarantee we can play football in the centre of the town until that land is actually needed.

“You have been premature on releasing the land and because of that, you’ve robbed the town of a football club.”

The ruling Conservatives refused to scrap plans for the new stadium and Cllr Lynne Doherty, leader of the council, said they will not reopen as a football ground because that could “jeopardise” the long-awaited project.

The council plans to demolish the run-down clubhouse at the old ground and turn it into an open space for the community until the land is needed for the redevelopment.

Cllr Doherty: “If you ask me whether I will prioritise job for local people and supporting our local economy over football then yes I will.

“I believe the regeneration of London Road Industrial Estate is what will keep us thriving into the future – an economic future that needs to be able to support all residents in West Berkshire.”