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June 08, 2016

Development would secure club’s future

A major housing development of more than 200 homes would secure the future of Falmouth Rugby Club for generations to come. This is the message from club officials this week, who are working with development company Westcountry Land to obtain planning permission for Menehay Farm in Bickland Water Road. The land was bought by club members a decade ago to turn into a new rugby ground, before the project was scrapped. Developing the fields with 220 houses would now unlock funds that could then be used to keep rugby on the recreation ground and create state of the art facilities.

James Instance, club vice chairman and ex captain, said: “The recreation ground is our home. This is where we have played rugby in our past, where we play now and where we want to play in the future. “There has been uncertainty over the future of this ground for the last 20 years. “Our vision is to secure this ground for generations to come, as a green space and as a rugby club for the entire community. “We also want to see facilities developed on this ground, fit for the 21st century, and fit for this club to be able to grow and meet all of its ambitions.”

These would include changing rooms, function rooms, classrooms and a bar, with Mr Instance declaring: “It will be the best facility in this county by some way.” He added that the club would like to ideally buy the recreation ground, or otherwise secure an extremely long lease for it, with a covenant to say it can only ever be used for sport, so that they can put such significant investment into it. To do this however, the club needs to release funds that are currently tied up from when it bought Menehay Farm with £200,000 of members’ money.

This was after the recreation ground was earmarked for development into houses, and permission was granted for the development of Menehay into a rugby ground in 2007. Following a successful Save the Rec campaign led by the community, however, development of the recreation ground never took place and the club did not relocate, but has retained ownership of the land to this date – with members’ money tied up in it. “We find ourselves in a situation where the rugby club owns a considerable amount of land that we cannot afford to develop into a rugby ground – and one we do not want to develop into a rugby ground. And we owe our members £200,000. “Effectively we’re on the edge of bankruptcy ourselves and on the verge of disbandment. We need to pay our lenders to secure this ground,” added Mr Instance. He also revealed the club’s ambition to use some of the funds to also take on Tregenver Field. While Cornwall Council, which owns the land, has not indicated whether it would agree to this, Mr Instance said it was the club’s dream to have this second ground to especially be used by its youth teams, as well as all schools in the town.

Members of the public were given their first chance on Tuesday to see plans for the proposed development of 220 houses on the outskirts of Falmouth. A public consultation has been launched into the scheme for Menehay Farm, which would see three fields developed. Westcountry Land, which has developed the proposal alongside Falmouth Rugby Club that owns the land, is working with Devon and Cornwall Housing Association with a view to making 35 per cent of the homes affordable. This would be broken down into 70 per cent being shared ownership and 30 per cent rental homes. Every house, regardless of whether it is one bedroom through to four bedroom, is allocated two parking spaces, making a total of 440 spaces.

It is proposed to create a new roundabout where the junction with Bosmeor Road currently sits, which would also give access into the new estate. Although this is the preference of developers, a simple T-junction is alternatively being considered, as the plans are still in the very early stages. The land previously had a covenant placed on it preventing any building on the fields. However, when Menehay Manor House came up for sale three years ago it was bought by Westcountry Land, which had the covenant removed before selling on the house again, but keeping the paddock. Existing footpaths are being maintained and the developers have said that while it may be possible to see roof lines from Budock, the aim was to not have a full view of houses by placing lower level bungalows in areas where there might be a risk of this.

A pre-planning application was submitted to Cornwall Council last year, initially for 235 houses, which was supported in principle by planning officers. This figure has now been revised to the slightly lower number of homes, with Westcountry Land director Justin Dodge saying the emphasis was on design. This included keeping the existing hedgerows in the field, which would be integrated into the development.

Falmouth town councillors were giving a presentation on the plans ahead of a seven-hour public drop in session at the rugby club on Tuesday. While many members were supportive of the club’s desire to stay at the recreation ground and improve facilities, some warned that residents of the Boslowick ward in particular were growing weary of development in this area. Deputy mayor and Boslowick ward member Trish Minson said: “People are thoroughly fed up of our ward being built on. It’s not stopped. “Support from the people in the ward I think, from what I’ve heard, is not going to be forthcoming. It’s really going to depend on your plans.”

Results from the public consultation will be taken onboard with a view to a planning application being submitted to Cornwall Council. Anyone with any queries about the proposed development can email Melanie Chiswell Brooks at melanie@rockpoolpr.com

Posted on: June 08, 2016

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