Plan gives hope for football club move

PUBLISHED: 17:06 08 November 2007 | UPDATED: 15:19 12 May 2010

Alan Barlow

Alan Barlow

ROYSTON Town Football Club s long-running hopes to develop a new ground has been given a boost – four years after it was initially rejected. After years of research and consultation the club believed it had found a suitable site on the land adjacent to

ROYSTON Town Football Club's long-running hopes to develop a new ground has been given a boost - four years after it was initially rejected.

After years of research and consultation the club believed it had found a suitable site on the land adjacent to the Little Chef on the north side of Baldock Road at Ivy Farm.

However, in November 2003 the club and president Alan Barlow's dreams were dashed when an inspector's 36-page report put the project in jeopardy and as a result it was rejected by the Office of the then Deputy Prime Minister.

Now the club have been given a glimmer of hope after North Herts District Council's Local Development Framework highlighted a possible site highlighting the undeveloped land beyond the Royston industrial estate.

The council's document stated that sites outside existing "settlement boundaries" could be developed.

The document said: "One example of this is Royston Town Football Club where we envisage allocating a site to enable it to expand in a way that the current site in Garden Walk does not allow.

Mr Barlow said the document was a positive step and believes it has recognised the club's need to move from its current Garden Walk home, which is in desperate need for renovation.

He said: "Nothing has changed. The club still plan to move away from Garden Walk and that idea has never altered. The only problem is where do we move to?

"I see the recent guideline as a positive step and it's good to see the move being mentioned.

"It looks like they are recognising our need to move which is a good sign.

"What is not so positive is the fact, if things do go ahead then we are still talking about years into the future. We're looking at a long time!"

Mr Barlow said, however, that it still does not mean a site will be available and ready for use.

He said: "Unfortunately it is not that simple, as we are fully aware. We were so close to making the move before - we could practically smell the new ground.

"I like everyone else that was involved was absolutely gutted. Many people had put their heart and soul into the project, working so hard only for it to fall apart at the last minute. So we shouldn't get our hopes up."

The club's original plans were backed by the Sports Council, Chamber of Commerce, the town council and the North Herts District Council Royston committee. They also had the backing of the community, with Mr Barlow handing the Planning Inspectorate a 1,837 strong petition in April 2003.

Mr Barlow, who has been at the club for the past 30 years, said he expected a similar level of support and added: "I am as determined as ever to see the project succeed. Whether or not it's to the mentioned site remains to be seen.

"Above all, we want to put together a top quality facility that will benefit the whole community and not just the football club. We just need to see what is made available and hopefully something will come up.

"I still feel in my heart that it will happen, because I believe it is a vital opportunity to put Royston on the map."

Royston Town Council's planning committee when considering the draft document supported the club's move.

But members said it should be on the original earmarked site at Ivy Farm.

Originally, the club's plan had the support of Royton Town Council and the district council's Royston area committee.

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