English Premiership club Bath Rugby has reaffirmed its commitment to bringing forward its Stadium for Bath plans after being granted a three-year extension for the use of temporary stands at its Recreation Ground.
The club had been seeking a four-year extension, but has instead been granted until May 2025 by Bath and North East Somerset Council, granting it further time to deliver on what have been long-running efforts to develop a new home.
A club statement read: “Bath Rugby is delighted with the decision taken regarding the extension to the existing planning permissions for our temporary stands at the Rec for a further three years. We have listened to the committee members and we reaffirm our commitment to bringing forward our plans for a permanent Stadium for Bath as soon as possible.”
The Rec has featured temporary stands for the last 15 years in order to bump its capacity up to 14,500. Speaking at a council meeting, the club pointed to COVID-19 and legal challenges as reasons for the delays in the Stadium for Bath scheme.
Tim Burden, Bath Rugby’s planning consultant, said, according to the SomersetLive website: “Bath Rugby’s resolve to progress with the Stadium for Bath project remains unchanged. Unfortunately, the delays caused over the past two years and various legal processes have meant it’s had to be paused.
“It remains entirely appropriate for a further temporary period to be facilitated to allow for a permanent solution for the future of the recreation ground to be resolved.”
Council planning officer, Chris Griggs-Trevarthan, had argued for a four-year extension, claiming it could take 12 months to submit and determine plans for the new project and then a further three years to develop it. His report said the temporary stands were an appropriate “meanwhile use” for the site in order to provide certainty and continuity.
However, with the stands having been due to come down in May, there was vocal opposition to another extension from those claiming they cannot now be classed as temporary structures. Rosie Carne, who lives near the Rec, told the meeting: “Twenty years of prevarications and renewals of temporary applications for this shantytown and now they want four more years.
“Stop being deceived by the rused use of the word temporary, which avoids scrutiny of heritage and conservation bodies. A councillor once openly said, ‘What Bath Rugby wants, Bath Rugby will get through planning’. Please don’t be the planners who continue to deliver this mantra. Restore our lost faith in the planning process.”
In December, Bath Rugby said it hoped to resume work on its new stadium after a court ruled a 99-year-old restrictive covenant on the land of its current Recreation Ground home was not enforceable.
The Stadium for Bath project proposes a new 18,000-capacity stadium be built on the site of the team’s Recreation Ground, its home since 1894. The venue was originally due to be completed by the summer of 2022, but work was put on hold at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while progress on the project has also been slowed by legal issues, including an historic restrictive covenant on the land.
The 1922 Covenants, agreed in April 1922, effectively banned the construction of any building on the land that would cause a “nuisance, annoyance or disturbance”, or otherwise impact the local community, with the exception of buildings already in place at that time, including the original Recreation Ground.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the 1922 Covenants were not enforceable, which incidentally overturned an initial court ruling in October 2020. Plans for the new stadium were first discussed in 2017 and while initial designs had been drawn up, the club was forced to change the proposal in April 2021, with a 550-space underground car park dropped from the project.
Image: Bath Rugby