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Bath Rugby puts new stadium plans on hold

Bath Rugby has paused work on its Stadium for Bath project in response to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The top-tier Gallagher Premiership Rugby club was due to submit plans for the 18,000-seat stadium this year and had targeted a completion date of summer 2022 for its new home.

Bath, owned by tycoon Bruce Craig, is considered one of the English rugby clubs best equipped to deal with the financial impact of the lockdown and absence of revenue-generating matchdays. However, the club said in an announcement that it is “the right and responsible decision” to pause the project due to the “uncertainty surrounding us”.

Tarquin McDonald, Bath’s chief executive, said: “The world has changed almost overnight and we have paused our work on the project whilst our priorities are rightly in a different place.

“To bring forward plans for a new state-of-the-art stadium in the heart of a World Heritage Site is complex and it is important that we get it right. We will use this time to reflect on the work we have done so far and the needs of our club, our city and our community following COVID-19.

“Whilst this pause is disappointing, it is right at this time.”

The Stadium for Bath venue is due to be built on the same site as the Recreation Ground, which has been the club’s home since 1894. The Rec has featured temporary stands for the last 15 years to bump its capacity up to 14,500, and each year the club must reapply for permission to retain them.

Plans for the new stadium were first discussed in 2017, with Bath Rugby, Bath Rugby Foundation and Arena 1865 coming together to develop the project. Arup was appointed to provide building engineering and specialist technical services in 2018, with Grimshaw selected as lead architect in the same year.

It was originally envisaged that building work would start during the 2019-20 season, but progress was delayed due to multiple challenges. The city of Bath is a World Heritage Site, with the new stadium having to tie in to this status, while the creation of a new car park has raised questions when the council has declared a climate emergency and is introducing a clean air zone.

Stadium for Bath announced final revisions to the venue design in October 2019 ahead of a planning submission it hoped to make in 2020. The revisions were announced following what Stadium for Bath described as “extensive consultation” with residents and representatives of the city.

Image: Stadium for Bath