Housing plan at Flowserve Sports and Social Club land, in Balderton, is ‘betraying a legacy’
Building on land that has been used for sport for a century would represent a betrayal of a legacy, according to a council’s planning committee chairman.
Sports activities have taken place at Flowserve for a 100 years, yet the gates of the Balderton site are locked with no indication given by the new landowner as to its future intent.
As a result, Newark’s premier football team has had to find a new home ground 20 miles away in Basford.
There are concerns that Flowserve Sports and Social Club land, which includes football pitches and bowls greens, could now lay unused for a decade before a planning application is submitted for its development.
The landowner recently won an appeal to build 322 homes on the surrounding site after the application was initially rejected by Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Roger Blaney, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said if an application was made for the sports facility land it would be a betrayal of the Worthington Simpson legacy of sport.
“Packaging the two elements together, it would be a betrayal of the legacy of Worthington Simpson and represent the loss of a valued and much-appreciated community asset in a very regrettable way,” he said.
“The fact that Newark FC is now without a home ground is tragic.
“We tried to prevent a development going ahead without any facilities and we weren’t able to do that and the fact the sports facilities are now gone behind locked gates is, in short, a tragedy.”
He said that because the club land did not form a part of the housing application it had to be assumed in law by the committee, and subsequently by the planning inspector, that it would remain as a community asset and a green space to be enjoyed.
Mr Blaney said if the sports and social club land had been included in the planning application it would have have involved many more houses and have helped justify the committee’s point about lack of community infrastructure.
“If it had been, Sport England would have objected on the basis of loss of sports ground usage. But if it can shown in ten years time that there has been no sports use over that time then Sport England would not be able to raise an objection,” he said.
“In November of last year, the land for housing was sold by Flowserve to C. B. Collier for £2,850,000 and split into two. One part would form the basis of the planning application and subsequent appeal and cost £2,849,999,” he said.
“The second (the sports and social club land) was bought by a company with Charles Collier as the only director for £1. The council was concerned about what the future held for the sports and social club.
“We were then invited to underwrite the rent paid for the club land.”
Council economic development committee papers for November reveal the new owner was seeking a much higher rent for the land occupied by the sports and social club, which it could not afford.
It was asked to cover up to £45,000 in the first year, £55,000 in the second and £75,000 a year thereafter.
“We believed it was unreasonable, particularly for an asset acquired for just £1. We felt a fairer amount was £10,000,” said Mr Blaney.
“It would have been a total abuse of public money if the rental income capitalised over the period was £1.5m.”
District council planning committee members went against its planning officers’ recommendation and rejected the application for the 322 homes, despite it being on a brownfield site earmarked for housing and after the developer had spent £2.15m on site remedial works.
The decision was overturned on appeal by a planning inspector, who cited financially viability, a national housing crisis, and the fact the land was already earmarked for housing in allowing the appeal.
A request for contributions from the developer to provide for infrastructure, health, community facility, transport, open space, and library was also thrown out.
“I fully recognise that not all contributions can be obtained. Viability is an issue. It is for negotiation,” Mr Blaney said. “It is our job to try to get the most that we can for the community and these were the amounts requested by organisations outside of the council such as the NHS.
“Our view was that the total lack of contributions and affordable housing in what is almost a mini village, bigger than my own patch of Fiskerton-cum-Morton, was unacceptable.
“It made it an unsustainable development as well as adding further pressure on the roads.”
Mr Blaney said while the committee recognised that a huge amount of remediation work had been done, and still needed to be done, it was felt that, on behalf of the local community, that developer contributions should still be sought.
“This inspector made clear there was a housing crisis and that houses should be be preferable to meet that crisis. Better to have 322 homes with no infrastructure with no new facilities than not,” he said.
“It was a decision that the community still strongly disagree with.
“We considered pressing for a High Court judicial review but the legal advice was that we would be unlikely to succeed.”
Attempts have been made to contact C. B. Collier.