Design & Development

Bath Rugby overcomes legal hurdle for stadium development

English Premiership club Bath Rugby is clear to proceed with the planned redevelopment of the Recreation Ground after the Supreme Court refused an application seeking to appeal a ruling from the Court of Appeal from earlier this year.

The ruling brings an end to the long-running legal case relating to the 1922 Covenants, agreed in April 1922, which effectively banned the construction of any building on the planned development site that would cause a “nuisance, annoyance or disturbance”, or otherwise impact the local community.

The ruling did not include buildings already in place at that time, including the original Recreation Ground. The Court of Appeal earlier this year ruled that the 1922 Covenants were not enforceable, which incidentally overturned an initial court ruling in October 2020.

The Court of Appeal’s decision was itself appealed, but this has now been refused by the Supreme Court, allowing Bath Rugby to progress with its redevelopment plans. The Stadium for Bath project proposes a new 18,000-capacity stadium to be built on the site of the Recreation Ground, the club’s home since 1894.

Bath Rugby chief executive Tarquin McDonald said: “We are delighted with this outcome. We acknowledge that this has felt drawn out and at times frustrating for the club, our supporters and the city. 

“It has been necessary to see this legal process through to its conclusion. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, we finally have the certainty we need as a club to bring forward comprehensive proposals for a new stadium at our spiritual home, The Rec, located in the heart of Bath. 

“The club will be re-engaging with stakeholders across the city regarding the development project and intends to bring forward and share its plans with the city in due course. This will regenerate the riverside and provide outstanding facilities for rugby and the wider community which everyone in the city can be proud of. 

“We would very much like to thank our supporters and the wider city for all their support and patience throughout this complex and lengthy legal process.”

Plans for Bath Rugby’s new stadium were first discussed in 2017. 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 and the legal issues involving the 1922 Covenants also slowed progress.

In March, Bath Rugby 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 the Recreation Ground.

The club had been seeking a four-year extension, but was instead 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.