A Somerset football club will not relocate following changes as part of a major town center redevelopment programme.
The Glastonbury Town Deal will invest £23.6m in central government funds over the next four years in 12 projects to revitalize the town center and deliver long-term economic and social benefits to the community. One of the original projects would have seen Glastonbury Town FC move from its current stadium on Godney Road to form part of a larger community sports and leisure center built around the Sports and Leisure Center gate off the A361 Street Road.
But the Town Deal Board has now clarified that, contrary to previous reports, the club will not be relocating as part of the Sports Hub project – providing district councils with information that is almost six months out of date. The original version of the City of Glastonbury Investment Plan (TIP – which was presented to the Government in January 2021) included a commitment to move Glastonbury Town FC to the new leisure centre, with a new clubhouse to be built alongside an all-weather pitch which would also support field hockey, tennis and netball.
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These claims were repeated by representatives of Fusion Leisure, the operator of the leisure centre, during a May 17 presentation to the Mendip Borough Council Audit Committee. Rob Taylor, managing director of Fusion Leisure, confirmed at the time that £1.87m from the Town Deal fund would be invested in the project, describing it as “a once-in-a-generation investment”.
The Town Deal Board subsequently clarified that this information was outdated as the football club’s move and an all-weather pitcher were out of the question. A spokesman said: “The city’s original investment plan was prepared in 2020 and presented to the government in January 2021.
“While it was in fact a new all-weather pitch, the idea was scrapped earlier this year after local residents opposed the proposal and after a playground needs assessment confirmed that an all-weather pitch was not required The Town- Glastonbury Community Sports and Leisure Center deal plans no longer include all-weather pitch, tiered seating or floodlighting.
“The existing building will not be demolished but will be renovated and possibly expanded to minimize disruption. Additionally, the proposal for Glastonbury Town Football Club to move to the new center was abandoned due to the revised plans for the site.”
The council said the presentation to the audit committee was based on an annual review of Fusion Leisure’s activities in December 2021 and has not been updated since. Final business cases for all 12 Town Deal projects will be submitted to the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) at the end of June, with funding expected to be released by the end of the year.
Mr Taylor said the new hub would still be of huge benefit to the people of Glastonbury even though the football club is no longer a factor. He said: “Many sports clubs and recreational users will be able to benefit from the improvements.
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“Clubs and customers include the gymnastics and acrobatics club, the bowling club, the martial arts club, the gym members and of course the wider community who will have access to the enhanced facilities for a wide range of health and wellness purposes. Additionally, we continue to work closely with Glastonbury Town FC to explore ways in which we can help the club develop as part of our broader commitment to all sports clubs in the city.
“The aim of the new center is to create a space that can be used by local residents not only for sport but also for education, health and wellbeing support and general socializing so that the Glastonbury community as a whole will benefit from the refurbishment should .” In addition to the city business allocation, Mr. Taylor said his company will continue to invest in the site as part of the renewal effort.
He said: “We need to invest in building equipment and facilities to ensure a high level of service. National governing bodies are expected to be able to provide some level of investment for some of the sports utilizing the facilities, and additional investment and match funding opportunities are being explored.”
Glastonbury Town Deal program manager Jane Sharp said some of the existing clubs would have to temporarily relocate during work to deliver the new hub, which is expected to start next year. She said: “We expect work on the clubhouse to take approximately ten months and during that time alternative arrangements will be made for the customers and clubs who would normally use the facilities.
“There will be minimal disruption to the outdoor courts, allowing them to continue to be used as usual during the improvement work. We hope that approval of the Town Deal will be confirmed in autumn 2022.
“The next step will be to obtain planning permission for the renovation work, so we anticipate work could start in 2023.”