Stadium for Bath update
Almost a year has passed since we rightly paused our work on the Stadium for Bath project due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, we explained that we would use the opportunity to reflect on the work undertaken thus far and the needs of the club, our city and our community.
As we all continue to emerge ‘on track’ from the pandemic following the Government’s roadmap, some things remain constant, but some things have changed.
What remains constant is our commitment to the Rec and to the city, despite the many challenges which have been thrown at us. Our deep desire to make a valuable and responsible contribution to the city is undiminished through creating new jobs, bringing significant visitor spend into the local economy, riverside regeneration, driving sporting participation and providing education and support for vulnerable members of our community. At the same time we are building a squad of at least 50% home grown players deeply rooted to this city.
We feel a great sense of responsibility to the club and the city, and to future generations of players and supporters. As part of this responsibility, the financial sustainability of the club has always sat at the heart of our plans for a new stadium in Bath, alongside the desire for an exceptional design.
The raising of the pitch in previous designs created the space for a public car park much like the adjacent parking under the Leisure Centre, with the provision of parking at the Rec compensating for the loss of other city-centre parking sites allocated for development and contributing to the financial sustainability of the development. During this period of reflection we have identified a satisfactory design solution to mitigate long-term challenges relating to flood risks and the water table which do not require the full raising of the pitch.
The world has changed over the course of the pandemic. We no longer believe it is appropriate to base the sustainability of the stadium and the club on car parking. We will therefore not be including an under-pitch car park in future proposals for redevelopment at the Rec.
In terms of next steps, the club has been granted leave on all grounds of appeal in relation to a recent judgment regarding the 1922 Covenants. Bath Recreation Limited, our landlord, has also been granted permission to join the appeal proceedings. A successful appeal is important for Bath Recreation Limited’s future as operations could be impacted in relation to hosting events, and in other matters such as the future of the Leisure Centre. The appeal hearing is due to be heard in Autumn 2021.
In the meantime, the club will continue to operate its temporary stadium facilities at the Recreation Ground. The constraints at the site are unique in professional elite sport and operating the temporary stadium facilities costs the club c. £1 million per annum in incremental operating costs.
Our commitment to the city and to the contribution we can make through playing rugby at the Rec is undiminished. We will continue to consider solutions for an appropriate design at the Rec, which must also be financially sustainable over the long-term. The appeal hearing in the Autumn is an important next step on the journey.
We recognise the support from so many people across Bath for this project, and we are hugely appreciative for the significant contributions to our many consultations on the project.
Bath Preservation Trust’s Chief Executive Caroline Kay said: “Bath Preservation Trust welcomes the statement from Bath Rugby concerning the plans for a stadium on the Rec. In particular we welcome the removal of proposals for a large car park under the pitch; partly for environmental reasons as car parking encourages car travel and partly because we assume this removal will enable there to be a reduction in the overall height of any new stands. We are concerned that a reduction of height is not made explicit in the statement and will work constructively with Bath Rugby and Bath Recreation Ltd to help find an acceptable solution for the heart of the World Heritage Site while hoping to retain the historic vibrancy of Rugby on the Rec. We note that the next step is a legal appeal; BPT has not engaged with either side on the issue of the Rec covenants and will await the outcome of the Court process.”