Last week Bath Rugby’s ambitious plans to develop a new, 18,000-capacity stadium (pictured) on an expanded site in the city centre suffered a legal blow after a ruling from Bristol High Court on a historic restrictive covenant on the land.

The judge ruled against the club’s lawyers who had legally challenged a historic covenant blocking development of the the current Rec site if there would be ‘nuisance’ caused. Bath Rugby’s legal team claims that the convenant is “unenforceable” and therefore invalid.

A statement from the club gave some background to the legal issues: “On 6 April 1922 the Rec was conveyed to the Bath Recreation Ground Company Limited by Bath Rugby’s then President, Captain Francis W Forester. Within this conveyance there was a restrictive covenant which, if enforceable, could impact future developments at the Rec. In accordance with legal advice, the Club has for some time been seeking to obtain clarity on this covenant.”

“The judgment is on a narrow legal point relating to whether the covenant can be enforced and by who; it did not consider the impact of this, and it was not concerned with the merits of any specific proposals for development at the Rec. The Club is assessing its options, which include an appeal, whilst we continue to focus on the day to day operations, planning for the new season alongside our important work via Bath Rugby Foundation supporting our community during these challenging times.”

Earlier this year – and amid the growing impact of COVID-19 stadium closures on team revenues – the club put the stadium development on hold and has yet to submit a full planning application.

After the ruling was announced Bath Rugby CEO Tarquin McDonald spoke to Somerset Live to state that the club remains committed to developing a new stadium at the Rec: “Our focus has always been at the Rec. It is our spiritual home, we have been there for 125 years playing rugby at the Rec.”

He said: “No one has ever developed a stadium in a World Heritage city before. I can not downplay the complexity of the project and what is involved but we will continue to work through that.”

Image: StadiumForBath/Grimshaw