Rugby club unveil relocation plan

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HARROGATE Rugby Club has announced plans to relocate from Claro Road to a purpose-built facility on Rudding Lane, and thus secure its future.

An application on 26 acres of green belt land, not inside the Rudding Park hotel complex, will be submitted to the council this summer.

It will include a single-storey clubhouse, three full-size pitches, junior pitches and a training area under lights, but not floodlights.

The move is being funded by the club’s landlords Crest Nicholson, who will submit a new planning application for housing and open space on Claro Road.

A council spokesman this week confirmed that, at present, that site is still designated recreation land.

But if permission is granted on both schemes, work will start at Rudding Lane in April next year, and the 140-year-old club installed for the 2014-15 season.

Chairman Paul Barnard said: “It’s been a long and drawn out process but over the last few months we’ve been actively working with our development partners Crest Nicholson to secure this site and the future of the club for many years to come.”

Both Crest and Harrogate RUFC are embarking upon a public consultation to gain opinion before finalising the applications.

Plans for both Claro Road and Rudding Lane can be viewed by members of the public for two days at the rugby club next Wednesday and Thursday between 2-8pm.

Club officials and Crest technical staff will be on hand to answer questions.

It’s early days for the process, but rugby club spokesman Michael Armstrong said it was imperative in securing rugby for all within the town.

“The whole thing hinges on a successful application at Claro Road, and a successful application at Rudding Lane,” he said.

“The two can’t happen independently.

“But after exploring several sites, and working very closely with Crest and the council, we identified a green belt location and will be bringing a planning application on that location in around three months’ time.

“We’ve chosen the site on the grounds that we believe it has a strong chance of securing planning.”

Sarah Conlan, development executive for Crest Nicholson confirmed Crest’s involvement.

She said: “Crest will be funding the relocation of the club, but we need both sites to gain planning permission.

“As development partners we’re trying to work with as many people as possible in terms of ensuring that everything can go ahead.

“The public consultation will provide a forum for discussion and the feedback will inform the plan submitted to the local authority.”

Harrogate Rugby Club finalised the sale of its Claro Road site to Crest for £7.2m in 1999, planning to move to a new ground within two years.

It received £610,000 up front, with the remaining £6.6m to follow if planning permission for 215 homes was granted.

In December, 2003, plans for the housing application and the rugby club’s new ground at Moorlands Farm near Killinghall were vetoed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

In 2009, a government-appointed inspector ruled out a proposed state-of-the-art sports facility at Claro Road.

At the end of that year, the club’s 10-year lease to stay at Claro Road expired.

The club were unsuccessful in an attempt to buy back the ground, but Crest agreed terms for Harrogate to remain at their base. The current lease runs until July 31, 2013.

“As a coach, and parent to children who play rugby I have a vested interest in seeing that rugby continues to be played in Harrogate,” said Mr Armstrong.

“We are a community club and want to build on those strong links, so a player can join the club at the age of six, and play all the way through to the first team. That’s how it should work.

“All we need is a playing surface, and a clubhouse.”