The long-term survival of a Midland football club is under threat because the local council is refusing to back a £3.3 million ground move plan, officials have claimed.
Redditch United has ambitious dreams to move from its “drab and dilapidated” Valley Park home to a new purpose-built ground on the outskirts of the town.
But the scheme, which the club claims could benefit the local authority by £2 million, has reached a stalemate after Redditch Borough Council said it would not back it.
The Reds – who play in the Premier Division of the Calor Southern League – say facilities at Valley Park are no longer fit for purpose and has proposed a move to council-owned land in a commercial zone in Washford, close to the headquarters of Halfords’ head office.
It says such a move would in effect swap its tenancy at Valley Park for Washford, meaning the council would still generate an income from the club.
The move would also allow the club to create new and more extensive facilities on a larger site, meaning it could expand and become financially solvent.
With the Valley Park site, which is close to the town centre, being earmarked for development the club claims cash generated from the sale of the land, along with grants it is confident it can secure from the Football Association’s Football Foundation, would fund the scheme.
It says the council would receive a windfall from the development – anything between £600,000 and
The scheme, which the club say has attracted offers from three major housebuilders, is being spearheaded by Reds’ chairman Chris Swan.
The entrepreneur took over the club in 2011 and puts £60,000 from his own pocket into it each year to keep it afloat.
He said: “The dilapidated stands, the threadbare pitch, the drab changing facilities and outdated clubhouse do not match a club of this standing or ambition and they certainly do not reflect the stature of the town the club represents.”
Initially the club had looked at redevelopment on the Valley Road site but says the scheme has financial obstacles and my not attract much-needed grants.
The Labour-controlled council has a majority of just one and Mr Swan accused it of standing in the way of development because it is concerned about political fallout and losing control of the council.
“They lead by one seat and this could change it,” he said.
Now he is calling on the local community to get behind the project in a bid to get the council to change its mind.
“My ambition is to get us into the Conference within five years or so,” he added. “This would offer us the facilities to get behind the team and do that.
“There is a chance here to create something the people and the town of Redditch can be proud of.”
But Redditch Borough Council has refuted claims it has blocked the scheme for no good reason.
Sue Hanley deputy chief executive & executive director for leisure, environment & community services, defended the council’s stance.
She said: “Whilst your ambitions and plans for the club are to be given the greatest credit, having considered all aspects of the proposals there are significant risks to the council which we consider could not be mitigated to the degree the council would require to proceed to a next stage.”
Ms Hanley went on to say that the land proposed for the relocation of the club is designated as primarily green space or public open space and would need to be changed to leisure and residential use in order to progress the scheme.
Her letter added: “Redditch Borough Council will take all the risk within this project and should expenditure rise, or resale not be achieved, Redditch Borough Council would be placed in the position of financial difficulty.”