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Sale Sharks’ stadium plans ended as council withdraws support

Plans for a new stadium for English Premiership rugby union club Sale Sharks have fallen through after Trafford Council withdrew its support for a wide-ranging sports village development.

In June, the club signalled its intention to return ‘home’ to a new stadium that would sit on the Crossford Bridge Playing Fields site in Sale. The plans included a multi-purpose sport and activity space that would have been anchored by a new “state-of-the-art community stadium” for the Sharks.

Crossford Futures was leading the sports village project, with the Sharks serving as an active partner. Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council, said back in June that the project was a “potentially very exciting opportunity” but the council has now announced that it will not be supporting further pre-planning application consultation on the proposals.

As a result, the second phase of the consultation for the project, where detailed plans had been due to be shared with the community, will not go ahead. Despite the news, the Sharks said that the consultation has given the club “even more confidence in our future ambitions”.

The club said in a statement: “We have made no secret that our long-held ambition is to return our elite men’s and women’s teams to our hometown of Sale, and to further strengthen our community ties. The learnings and partnerships developed throughout this exercise have moved us forward significantly. Although disappointed by this political decision in the short term, we look forward to delivering a solution in the future that puts our great fan base and city region at the heart of it.”

The Sharks currently play at Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium (pictured), alongside rugby league club Salford Red Devils. The Sharks moved into the 11,500-seat stadium, which is jointly owned by Salford City Council and developers Peel L&P, when it opened in 2012.

The Sharks’ future at AJ Bell Stadium has been in question for some time and the club launched a bid to purchase ownership rights to the venue in August 2017, but also said it would pursue plans to build its own ground if it was unsuccessful.

Following yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) announcement that Trafford Council would not be ending its support for the new stadium project, Crossford Futures said: “Whilst we understand the political decision that has been taken not to support the next stage by our friends at Trafford Council, we are extremely disappointed that we will not be able to share the detailed plans that we have been developing collaboratively with the local sports clubs and community over the last few months – we know many members of the local community were looking forward to seeing these.

“We are convinced that these plans would have attracted support throughout Sale and the wider borough, especially as they support the aspirations and address the concerns raised in the initial consultation. We are hopeful that the thinking developed during this wide-ranging consultation will not be wasted and will come to benefit the community and Sale Sharks at some point in the future.”

The project would have required investment of around £100m (€110m/$130m). A number of Sale residents had raised concerns over the potential loss of green space that would come with the new stadium, along with traffic problems and potential noise pollution.

The first phase of consultation for the project attracted more than 2,500 people and another round of consultation had been planned before Trafford Council withdrew its support.

“Following the initial phase of consultation, we have taken the decision not to support the proposal,” Western said, according to the Manchester Evening News. “We would however like to acknowledge the professionalism and transparency of Crossford Futures and Sale Sharks throughout this process, especially their willingness to listen and work collaboratively with the whole community.

“We share with Sale Sharks a desire to see them back in Sale in the future if a suitable site can be found.”

Image: AJ Bell Stadium