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Friday, 18 April 2014

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New plan for £5.5m stadium

WHITEHAVEN looks certain to have a brand new £5.5 million community sports stadium.

Funding cuts mean that the full £8.7million Pow Beck Sports Village cannot go ahead as planned.

However, a revised scheme will start with a community stadium combining rugby league and soccer ready for use in two years time.

The cheaper scheme will overcome funding cuts but take just under 5,000 spectators – 3,000 fewer than originally planned.

An 8,000-capacity stadium would have met RL Super League standards but Whitehaven Rugby League Club has since been relegated to the lowest division and suffered administration.

The new Whitehaven club will share the facility with Whitehaven Association Football Club.

It is hoped to gain planning approval by August this year, with construction starting a month later and being completed in January 2013.

Faced with having to repay £75,000 after standing guarantors for a loan before the RL club went into administration, the borough council is keen to ensure no financial liability falls on it over the development. It will, however, serve as “an accountable body” over funding applications and grant conditions.

A report to Copeland Council’s Executive says the RL club has a much healthier standing following administration, which cleared £300,000 worth of debts.

The council is involved in a partnership to drive the scheme forward but will not be putting any of its own money in.

Described “as a centrepiece for staging rugby league and soccer”, the stadium will be built on land already owned by Whitehaven Association Football Club rather than the adjoining Recreation Ground pitch, which Whitehaven RLFC has played on since 1948.

Copeland Council is being recommended by corporate officers to put its full weight – but not money – behind the stadium and at a meeting next Monday will ask its Executive committee to give its collective support.

Tory members, adamant that the wider Pow Beck Sports Village scheme is not viable, have already voiced objections but the Executive is made up entirely of Labour councillors.

Consultants say that Pow Beck Valley “remains a valid regeneration objective” and also advise that the best way forward is a phased development of the proposed community stadium.

This is the preferred option. It means that the stadium will be built on land owned by the soccer club which has agreed to enter into a 99-year lease with a partnership of Copeland Council, Whitehaven Rugby League Football Club, Whitehaven Association Football Club and Britain’s Energy Coast which has earmarked £4 million for the project. Another £355,000 (from a £500,000 BNFL gift) has also been ring fenced.

The Rugby Football and the Football Leagues are also in support and said to be potential financial backers.

Copeland Community Fund and brewery loans are also being explored to fill a £1.15 million balance.

Meanwhile, the RFL (the game’s governing body) is in talks with the Whitehaven Miners Welfare and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation for a 25-year lease for the present Whitehaven RLFC ground and enable a new access road into the stadium.

Compulsory purchase powers can be used if necessary.

Executive councillors will be advised on Monday that the proposal “as it now stands is feasible and affordable”.

This is what is envisaged:

Fully covered north west and south west stands;

Terraced standing facilities on uncovered north east and south east stands;

Covered seating capacity for 390 spectators;

Covered standing – minimum 1,070, maximum 2,140;

Uncovered standing – minimum 1,205, maximum 2,415;

Accommodation for administration, changing facilities and social use, furniture, fixtures and equipment;

Formal car parking (44 spaces);

Informal car parking (137 spaces);

Improved roads, footpaths, fencing and Coach Road roundabout.

A report from Pow Beck project manager Bob Collins says the stadium will complement other key town transformation projects. These included the Albion Square office development, the Transport Interchange and proposed Tesco expansion along with harbourside developments as well as enhancing regeneration opportunity for the Ginns.

He adds that a sports stadium would encourage visitors to Copeland “and provide a much deserved facility for residents to enjoy and be proud of”.

Council leader Elaine Woodburn says: “We’ve looked at whether the earmarked funding could or should be used for other projects but it is clear that no other projects were on the cards which could offer the transformational benefits of the sports village - both in terms of sports and leisure provision, and regeneration impact on a wider area.

“It was never a case of Pow Beck vs the hospital, the two schemes were never in contention for funding.”

Have your say

Very good point Jim. Additionally this investment is all public money one way or the other, irregardless of the technicalities. Be interesting to see what response CBC gives that when WCH looses maternity provision which will quite possibly happen within the near - mid future and expectant mums have to travel to Carlisle to give birth...no doubt they will be up in arms and bleating on about how their is not sufficent PUBLIC monies spent in the area.

Posted by rob on 26 January 2011 at 12:07

Bearing in mind the common problems associated with vast amount of indiscriminate parking nearby previous Haven matches, and the fact that there are provisions for only 181 parking spaces for a total crowd capacity of 4555 people (not including the stewards, other staff, players, coaches, tv crews, media etc) It seems to be a very ill-thought out plan.
Traffic entering / exiting coach road often leads to big tailbacks due to the roads that feed into and away from it as well which will also introduce unforeseen problems.
Ii'm not against a bigger stadium for Whitehaven, but it needs to be done properly!

Posted by Allan on 26 January 2011 at 00:34

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