Give Basingstoke Town their own football stadium - Winklebury is not the answer!
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Basingstoke Town Football Club is currently playing 19 miles away in Winchester after being evicted from the Camrose in August 2019.
This is because their former owner Rafi Razzak and his development company Basron want to develop their old stadium on Winchester Road into 89 houses and a care home which will make his firm millions.
But this flouts the wishes of Lord William Camrose, who gave this land to the town's football club in 1948. He signed a covenant in 1953 protecting the land from development for 100 years.
We believe it is morally wrong for councillors to approve any development on the Camrose site and we are urging Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to act. The authority owns 30 per cent of the grounds and it has the power to demand the club moves back to the town.
The current solution to move Basingstoke Town to Winklebury once planning is approved on the Camrose is not fit for purpose and is robbing the town of a sporting facility. This is terrible value for the residents of Basingstoke. This time last year, the town had two football stadiums. This decision is taking a football ground away from residents and is robbing future generations.
Winklebury cannot be developed to fulfil the club's future aspirations and it will limit what the side can achieve. In short, it is a bad idea and is bad value for everyone involved (except arguably, the developer Basron).
For Basingstoke to be left with one stadium is not acceptable. There is an ever-growing community here and future generations deserve the chance to enjoy football matches and football facilities as previous generations have.
In 1948, philanthropist and newspaper proprietor William Berry, Lord Camrose, gave Basingstoke Town Football Club a football ground to rent to Winchester Road at a peppercorn rate.
He signed a covenant in 1953 to protect the land from development for 100 years. The public have previously been misinformed by councillors who said the covenant was 'missing' or 'difficult to find'. The Gazette unearthed it last week using public records and sources.
There is a covenant in place which states that the Camrose must remain a football ground until 2053.
There are questions raised about why Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council allegedly 'didn't know' about the covenant earlier. When asked last week, we were told it had 'nothing to do with them'. At a public meeting in July 2017, a council officer said their legal team said there was 'no evidence' when searching for a copy of the covenant.
Regardless of their intent over their inability to track down this piece of vital paperwork, it clearly states in black and white that Lord Camrose's wishes was for this land to remain as a football ground until 2053. This is not in dispute.
Though what these means in legal terms is less clear. This is because the landowner is Mr Razzak and his firm Basron and Basingstoke Town Football Club have been evicted.
Legally it is remains unclear whether this discovery could prevent Basron, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and the landowner from building houses and a road on the site.
Though morally, the answer is crystal clear. If a kind-hearted, former resident of the town gave this land to the community for this purpose, then surely the wishes of a now-deceased man must be respected at all costs. To go against his desires, would be morally reprehensible.
Why do we care?
Newspapers have a duty to hold the local authorities to account as well as sticking up for residents of the town it serves. We think the public are being short-changed by losing out on a sports stadium and we think it is morally wrong that fans have been mislead.
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