Bury St Edmunds: Sports ground is recommended for community ownership

MAJOR investment is on the cards for a popular sports ground which is being put forward for community ownership.

The future of the Victory Sports Ground in Bury St Edmunds will be safeguarded as a sports venue if St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s cabinet decides to transfer the freehold to the community next week.

Transferring the freehold to a new consortium of partners, including Victory Sports Ground Ltd, Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club (BSECC) and South Lee School, is felt to be the most effective way of delivering a �1.8-1.9million scheme for new facilities at the ground, off Nowton Road.

These would include a new pavilion/clubhouse/function space overlooking both cricket areas and with four changing rooms below, as well as a sports hall with two adjoining changing rooms.

The sports ground, which is also used for croquet, tennis and football, has been run by Victory Sports Ground Ltd since 2001 and is owned by the borough council.

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Paul Whittaker, chairman of BSECC and director of Victory Sports Ground Ltd, described it as an “absolutely fantastic opportunity to produce what would probably be the finest sports ground in Suffolk”.

He said: “This transfer secures the future of the Victory Ground as a high quality multi-sports venue where clubs can provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in a variety of sports and where we can invest to provide social space and modern facilities for the community and the ground users.”

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David Barker, vice chairman of governors at South Lee School and president of BSECC, added: “The proposed new sports hall will provide a superb facility for the pupils of the school and because of the unique nature of this partnership it will build on the school’s strong ethos of supporting the local community.”

The officers’ report for next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting said South Lee School would provide �1.5million for the new facilities, BSECC would contribute �250,000 through external funding from the English Cricket Board and Mr Whittaker said Sporting 87 Football Club, one of the ground users, would also provide a significant funding contribution. A range of additional bids are also in progress.

The report said the consortium would deliver and manage the project through a Community Interest Company - an organisation which uses its profits and assets for the public good.

Councillor John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “I strongly support this initiative which puts a local community firmly in charge of a much valued local facility.

“There will also, and importantly, be legal protection to ensure its future as a sports ground and I hope my cabinet colleagues will approve the idea which makes so much sense for all concerned.”

The consortium will submit a planning application, which will be subject to consultation with those living near the site, if the cabinet approves the sale.

Officers have recommended the sale for approval.

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