Berkhamsted Football Club owners say club might not 'survive' if forced out of ground for 1,000 homes
Berkhamsted Sports Grounds Charitable Association have described the sale of Broadwater as a “non-existent option” at present
The owners of Berkhamsted' s historic football club say they might “not survive” if they were forced out of their grounds to make way for 1,000 homes.
Berkhamsted FC, which has existed in different forms for more than 100 years, says it faces being relocated out of its Broadwater grounds in Berkhamsted town centre to the village of Bourne End so the new housing estate can be built.
But Berkhamsted Sports Grounds Charitable Association (BSGCA), which owns Broadwater, says the campaign to ‘Save Broadwater’ is misleading in that there is no current context in which Broadwater needs to be saved.
In a public meeting last night (August 19), the club urged Dacorum Borough Council to turn down the proposals and instead list the grounds as an Asset of Community Value to protect it from future development.
The meeting was chaired by South West Hertfordshire MP Gagan Mohindra (Conservative), who suggested the borough council would “struggle to justify” the development.
The proposed development, called Bulbourne Cross, have been put forward by developers Thakeham and will include up to 1,000 new homes as well as new sporting facilities between Berkhamsted and Bourne End.
Steve Davis, chairman of Berkhamsted FC, said that the club had a lease for the ground until May 2023 but the future beyond that was unclear. The club is unable to extend that lease until a decision has been made on the potential Bulbourne Cross development.
Berkhamsted Town Council said a decision on the application to list the ground as an Asset of Community Value is expected next week.
BSGCA has backed the site as an opportunity to provide new state-of-the art facilities for a number of sports clubs in the town, and any potential sale of Broadwater could fund those plans.
The proposals have not been included in Dacorum Borough Council’s draft Local Plan and the BSGCA has described the sale of Broadwater as a “non-existent option” at present.
The borough council had been due to publish its plan in the autumn but this has been delayed following results of a recent consultation.
The club has warned the council that if the proposals are included in the final plan it would be a blow to Berkhamsted town centre and community.
Mr Davis said: “They seem to think a brand new stadium is all it takes for a club to succeed.
“They talk about a super-hub which is run by a trust but let me tell you running a non-league football club is unique, it’s not about participation and numbers, it’s about being a part of the community belonging to the public and giving it to future generations.”
‘It’s very important we stay in the town centre’
Nobody from BSGCA attended the meeting, and a statement on behalf of BSGCA Trustees was instead read to the meeting.
The statement said: “The Trustees of Berkhamsted Sports Grounds Charitable Association received information about this meeting from Benny Mitchell [of Berkhamsted FC]. They were never consulted about the meeting.
“At the BSGCA Board meeting on 20 July they planned to discuss whether to attend the event but it transpired that the flyer promoting the event titled ‘Berkhamsted Comrades Football Club’ was never seen or authorised by the BFC Board.
“This was confirmed by Grant Hastie, a Director of BFC, although it seems that subsequently BFC have adopted it on their website. BSGCA believes this was misleading for the residents of Berkhamsted and it clearly purported to be from the football club.
“We also believe that this continuing campaign to ‘Save Broadwater’ is misleading in that there is no current context in which Broadwater needs to be saved.
“The Bulbourne Cross proposal, within which there is a potential multi-club, multi-sport site and the opportunity for BFC to move to a state of the art FA specified Step 3 stadium, is not in the draft Local Plan.
“Since there is no current possibility for a relocation of BFC there is no issue in ‘saving Broadwater’. Not only is Bulbourne Cross not in the Local Plan but it is not now expected that the results of the recent consultation exercise will be available until at least September 2022.
“BSGCA does not see any benefit in debating a non-existent option but will be more than happy to engage fully with all stakeholders if ever a relocation option becomes a reality.”
Stuart Hastie, from Berkhamsted FC, noted that the ground is currently used for functions and as a nursery in the week, and its location is within walking distance for volunteers and spectators.
There are concerns that moving around two miles to the new site could be devastating for the club.
Mr Hastie said: “It’s very important we stay in the town centre, it’s where our volunteers are, it’s where people come to the events and it makes it all tick financially. I’m not sure we’d survive if we moved to Bourne End.”
He added: “We really are at the heart of the community in Berkhamsted and we’d like to stay there and not Bourne End.”
Residents from Bourne End also spoke at the meeting to raise their concerns about the site. The new developments are proposed on green belt land, and there were concerns that the separation between the towns would be erased if given the green light.
The Bulbourne Cross proposals can be seen here.