Decision made on 50 year lease for Stowmarket Town Football Club ground
- Credit: Archant
The future success of a Suffolk football club has received a long term boost after councillors agreed to a new 50 year lease of its ground.
Mid Suffolk District Council has a 60% ownership of Stowmarket Town Football Club's pitch and ground in Bury Road, and at its cabinet meeting on Monday agreed to a new five decade lease.
It marks a significant step for the future of the club, which had a lease that only covered up to 2025, with the new deal granting the Stowmarket Community Sports and Social Club community interest company (CIC) a peppercorn rate.
The short remaining lease meant it was unable to secure funding from the Football Association for key repairs and upgrades, which includes plans for more covered seating and a refresh of the changing facilities.
That funding is crucial should the team continue its promotion push, as FA rules require a certain standard of facilities for teams playing at the next level - a standard the club does not currently meet.
If the club does not meet the requirements but wins promotion, it will not be able to remain in its current league and will be effectively penalised for not having the facilities.
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Delwyn Prentice, commercial director with the CIC, said: "It's massive for the area. We are really excited to be working with the council and church on this, and there is every hope we can get everything signed off.
"If we don't get that [lease] and we do get promoted the risk is we would be relegated two leagues down, so for the area as a whole if we cannot secure this it's a huge negative."
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The remainder of the site is owned by the Stowmarket Church Charity, which also must grant its blessing for the squad to carry on using the land.
The CIC confirmed it was also planning a multi-use games area and facilities for other local clubs to use, rather than having to go elsewhere in the district, as part of its upgrade plan.
Peter Gould, cabinet member for investments, said: "I am really pleased to present this.
"This reiterates our support for the community interest company to achieve FA funding but does require commitment by all parties.
"This is a great opportunity to support the community interest company in its long term objectives."
Keith Welham, from the council's Green group, added: "Our view is that it is vital that the club has a solid assurance that they will have the benefit of a 50 year lease for the whole of the club site at a rent that is affordable.
"The club is ambitious and we want to see them succeed - not just from a football point of view.
"It will be good for the economy of the town as a whole."