Club statement: Tuesday 12th December 2023
Posted on 12th December 2023
Tomorrow is another important day for Maidenhead United FC and the future of community sport in the town, with RBWM’s Cabinet once again reviewing its decision in regard to our proposals for the new Braywick Community Stadium.
We are grateful to Shay Bottomley for championing the benefits of this proposal through his petition and to all who have signed the petition, which has shown there is overwhelming support for our plans to be brought to fruition.
We have today emailed all of the members of the RBWM Cabinet, with the objective of providing them a detailed overview of the benefits our proposals will deliver. Given the importance of the decision tomorrow we think it is only fair to share with you the details of this email which is provided below for information.
If should wish to do so, it is not too late for you to email Cabinet members directly supporting the proposals.
Their email addresses are provided below for information:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com, cllr.Hill@rbwm.gov.uk
I am writing to you in advance of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 13th December when you will be reviewing the decision made at Cabinet on the 27th July 2023 not to confirm the open space resolution relating to the lease of part of Braywick Park to the trustees of Maidenhead United (MUFC Ltd).
For transparency you should know that our legal advisors have recently written RBWM’s Monitoring Officer challenging the legitimacy of the Council’s recent decision making on this matter and confirming that the Open Space Condition within the agreement to lease between RBWM and MUFC Ltd was satisfied, meaning the agreement is still enforceable.
You will not be surprised to learn that Maidenhead United FC, alongside many residents, were both surprised and disappointed by Cabinet’s July decision. We feel strongly that Cabinet members were not adequately briefed regarding our proposals for the new community sports stadium at Braywick and failed to consider the many benefits this proposal will deliver for the local community.
The legal advice Cabinet received in regard to completing the statutory requirements of the Open Space Notice at your 27th July meeting was to “balance any adverse consequences of the loss of open space, having regard to the objections received, against the advantages of leasing the land”. In advance of that meeting an email was written Cllr Josuah Reynolds which highlighted that the relevant Cabinet papers failed to highlight the benefits of the proposal, and provided a detailed summary of some of the key benefits of our proposals so they could be discussed at the Cabinet meeting. Unfortunately, despite this there was no consideration of the benefits of the proposed scheme by Cabinet as part of your discussions.
We have now seen the papers which Cabinet have been provided for the upcoming meeting and are astonished that, outside the information submitted within Shay Bottomley’s petition to Council, no further context or consideration of the benefits of our proposals has been provided to Cabinet members.
Whilst we fully appreciate that not everyone is supportive of our proposals, only 22 objections were received in response to the statutory consultation process, so we urge Cabinet to have a balanced discussion which considers fully the benefits of this proposal for the local community. This would seem a reasonable request given both of the political parties represented on Cabinet made a clear commitment to put the “community first” during their local election campaigns.
Given the club will only be afforded the opportunity to speak for three minutes at the meeting on Wednesday, within this email we have outlined a number of factors which we would ask all Cabinet members to consider in advance of the meeting, so that you can have a full and informed discussion regarding benefits of leasing the site within the Braywick Sports Ground to facilitate the delivery of our proposals.
Whilst we know that some of the Cabinet Members are familiar with the details of Maidenhead United FC’s proposals for the Braywick Sports Park site, we are concerned that the full details of our proposals have not be provided to all Cabinet members and as a consequence a number of untruths perpetuated by third parties regarding our proposals have been taken as fact. We have therefore attached with this this email a document which provides you with background information about Maidenhead United FC and our proposals for the Braywick Sports Park site, including the indicative site plan used during the public consultation undertaken in the autumn of last year.
In summary our proposal is to deliver a purpose built 5,200 capacity community stadium and associated facilities for the benefit of the town including:
A full size astroturf and a ¾ size astro turf – constructed so they are suitable for both football and rugby.
A new floodlit 300m running straight, 100m sprint track, long jump, high jump and throwing facilities.
A new covered sports hall, designed specifically to for the provision of Futsal and Wheelchair Sports.
A clubhouse building incorporating a range of facilities include men’s, women’s and disabled changing, a sports performance gym environment including treatment rooms, a multipurpose hospitality and education space, space for club’s administration and community staff, as well as a dedicated wellbeing hub for the benefit of the local community.
Further key points you should be aware of include that:
These proposals are fully funded and will be delivered at no cost to the Council.
The funding will come from the sale our existing York Road ground, with 100% of the proceeds from the sale being invested in the new stadium and associated community facilities.
The new stadium and associated facilities will be owned by MUFC Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation, and held for the benefit of the football club and the wider community in the same away as our existing York Road ground is.
The ownership structure is an important point, given some of the rhetoric used by objectors, which is far from the truth. The key point is that the lease agreement actually guarantees that the site area for the proposal will be held for public benefit and the provision of community sport and recreation for the next 999 years, essentially protecting a vital community sports asset and ensuring the site cannot be disposed for residential or commercial development in the future.
It is also important to highlight that the proposals are clearly intended to add value to the existing users of the site area at Braywick, whilst extending the benefit and use of this important sport and recreation space to thousands more local residents.
We have a strong partnership with Maidenhead Athletic Club which is supportive of this proposal. It should not be lost that, in addition to the lease for the site being purchased for the independently determined value of £460,000 (which was confirmed as being valid as recently as May of this year), this proposal also secures the construction of a new athletics track and associated facilities at no cost to the Council.
As you know, key representatives from Maidenhead Rugby Club are not supportive of the proposal and seem to have a view that the playing fields at Braywick should be preserved for rugby use only. Shamefully, these representatives continue to suggest that thousands of junior and female rugby players will not be able to play rugby if this proposal moves forward. To be clear this would not be the case. Both astroturf pitches would be constructed so they are suitable for both football and rugby.
We have always been, and remain committed, to ensuring Maidenhead Rugby Club can use both new astroturf pitches on Sunday mornings in the same way they currently use the grass areas on the proposed site. This means mini and junior rugby players from Maidenhead would have to access equivalent quality astroturf facilities to those the rugby club’s youth and adult members enjoy on their main pitch. Our objective is to improve the quality of the rugby facilities available for mini/junior players and their parents. It is difficult to understand why this would not be a good thing as we believe it would support the rugby club to grow their membership at a time where rugby participation is in decline nationally.
It is also important to emphasise that RBWM, has secured the requirement for the enhanced facilities to be available for use by Maidenhead Athletic Club and Maidenhead Rugby Club by enshrining this obligation within our lease agreement. These provisions provide certainty that neither club will experience a loss of benefit. Furthermore, they provide both clubs with long term security of use of the facilities at Braywick, something which neither club has currently.
Ultimately the objective remains to deliver a high-quality community facility which provides flexible community sports environment for players and spectators from the local community participate and enjoy a number of sports at Braywick Sports Park.
Further points which merit detailed consideration include:
We fully recognise the importance of different types of open space to Maidenhead and the benefits this provides for the local community. It is however appropriate to consider open space in the context of its existing use, purpose and location. In this context, key considerations relating to area of open space at Braywick this proposal relates to include:
Braywick Park has two clearly defined areas split by the Green Way. Braywick Nature Reserve is the area of the park allocated for nature and habitat conservation, with public access for dog walking etc. Braywick Sports Park is a recreation ground with the primarily function of providing for sports, recreation and leisure opportunities for the local community. Braywick Sports Park is recognised as Maidenhead’s “Sports Hub” and as the key location in the town for the provision of both indoor and outdoor sports facilities within the BLP and associated RBWM strategies.
The proposals relate to a site located within Braywick Sports Park, directly beside the busy A308. Its primary use is for community sport, with the majority of the site being made up of the athletics track and playing fields.
The quality of the existing facilities on the site is very poor. The athletics facilities are not floodlit, are dilapidated and often unsafe for use due to waterlogging. The outdoor gym area is dilapidated, graffitied and a health & safely liability. The playing fields are simply poorly maintained areas of grass which have limited community use beyond the rugby on Sunday mornings during rugby season.
The leasing of the open space will not lead to a change of use. The space will still be used for sport and recreation and the proposals at their core represent an upgrade of the existing facilities with the provision of two new astroturf pitches, constructed so they are suitable for community use for both football and rugby, alongside a new, floodlit, athletics track with associated jumping and throwing facilities.
The proposed enhancement of sporting facilities within the site area are no different to equivalent sporting facility enhancements historically undertaken at Braywick, including the construction of the Leisure Centre, Maidenhead Rugby Club’s clubhouse and astroturf, the hockey astroturf and changing building.
Similarly, the enhancement proposed are no different in context to new padel courts and clubhouse refurbishment approved by Cabinet in October this year, which include the release of an area of open space within Braywick Sports Park less than 100m away from the existing athletics track. Given this decision it seems difficult to understand how our proposals are not aligned or compatible Cabinet’s thinking regarding the use of open space at Braywick Sports Park for improved community sports facilities.
Given October Cabinet confirmed Braywick Sports Park purpose as Maidenhead’s Sports Hub, we would also encourage Cabinet consider the benefits of the proposed upgrade of facilities and intensification of use of sports and recreation space at Braywick in the wider context of their political commitments to protect the Maidenhead’s greenbelt and deliver improved facilities/services for residents within the financial constraints the council is operating within.
We know that both the RBWM’s existing and emerging Playing Pitch Strategies identify a shortfall in provision of astroturf pitches in Maidenhead and across the borough. Working on the premise that Cabinet wants to extend the opportunities available to residents to participate in sports and recreation, this means that you must look for solutions to build additional astroturfs in Maidenhead and address the shortfall in provision locally.
If RBWM is committed to facilitating the provision of additional astroturfs the town needs this raises a number of questions including: If not at the Braywick Sports Park, where do you build them in Maidenhead? Will the Council have to identify new greenbelt locations in Maidenhead not already in use for sports to deliver these facilities? Will the Council have to build astroturfs on the golf club site they are committed to try to protect? Where will the funding come from to deliver these additional facilities?
The proposals we have put forward for Braywick are an “oven ready” solution to this challenge, enabling RBWM to deliver, importantly without cost to the Council, the additional community astroturf facilities the town needs, whilst mitigating the requirement for the Council to identify new greenbelt sites in Maidenhead to deliver these additional astroturf facilities.
Given the long-term difficulty the town has experienced in identifying residential development sites in Maidenhead which are outside the greenbelt, this proposal has the advantage of releasing our York Road ground and a town centre, “brownfield” residential development site, also helping protect the greenbelt and reducing the requirement for other greenfield sites in Maidenhead to be released for housing development.
The background and rationale for the proposed move of Maidenhead United FC to a new community stadium is well documented.
The petition submitted objecting to the proposals is made, in part, on the premise that a decision to stop the club moving to a new stadium will protect the future of Maidenhead United FC, the towns longest operating sports club. It is unclear how the petitioner can legitimately make this claim given he is not a supporter of the club and not involved in the club’s operation.
The irony is that the petitioners claim in this regard is simply not true. The truth is that the proposals for Braywick are about creating sustainable future for the club and all we do in the community. This is underpinned by the fact that the club’s existing facilities at York Road are simply no longer fit for purpose because:
The stadium facilities require significant capital investment to bring the ground up to modern standards for spectators, players and match officials.
The stadium is already surrounded by development sites with suitability of access and parking representing significant risks to the long-term suitability and use of the ground as a stadium venue.
The opportunity for community use at the ground is limited and does not provide for the needs the club or our community programmes. This is exacerbated by the fact that existing astroturfs in Maidenhead are operating at capacity meaning the opportunity for continued growth is limited, already resulting in waiting lists for participation in our grassroots football and community provision.
The Club’s need to access additional astroturf and indoor sports facilities is immediate. We have grown exponentially over the last three years. Our Maidenhead United Juniors club has 700+ members and 59 teams for ages between u7s and u18s. Our women’s and girl’s football provision is growing, as are our walking football provision and our wellbeing activities. In this context, we already use the available astroturfs in the local area to the extent we now have Maidenhead teams training as far as Reading. Furthermore, we are unable to find appropriate available facilities for our women’s first team to train. We are projecting further growth over the coming years, particularly to meet the needs for women’s and girl’s football, however we are unlikely to be able to respond to this demand without additional facilities being available for us to use locally.
This year the club has extended our offer to include Futsal, which is one of the fastest growing sports in Europe and has not been previously available for children and adults to play in Maidenhead. Futsal is a grassroots sport, there are no formal futsal facilities in RBWM meaning that we are running our futsal training in facilities across the Thames Valley and playing competitive matches in West London.
It is also important to emphasise again that as a community sports club Maidenhead United FC does not have access to the significant funding required to either improve the facilities at York Road or to separately provide the additional community astroturf facilities we so desperately need.
The simple fact is that the agreement to lease between the club and RBWM has created the unique opportunity for the value of existing York Road ground to be realised through its sale and to be reinvested in its totality into a fantastic, modern new community multi sports venue which will held in trust for benefit to the town and its community for generations to come.
To be clear, there will be no private financial benefit derived from this proposal, it will simply enable the delivery of a legacy community sports facility, designed to complement existing sporting provision at Braywick, whilst securing the long-term future of Maidenhead oldest sports club and extending the opportunity for residents of all ages and abilities to play and enjoy sport.
We are obviously aware of the petition which has been submitted by Shay Bottomley asking the Council to review its decision in July and consider the benefits of the proposal. We will not repeat the benefits of which Shay has highlighted in the basis that you have already reviewed these in detail.
The results of the petition clearly show that there is overwhelming support amongst residents for our proposals. More than twice as many residents have signed the petition compared to the opposing petition.
We note that the papers provided to Cabinet in both July and for the meeting this week do not provide a comprehensive equalities impact assessment, which is a serious oversight given the importance of this decision to disadvantaged groups in Maidenhead. One of the fundamental objectives of our proposals is extend the opportunity available to local people who are disadvantaged by the under provision of facilities in Maidenhead including:
Women and Girls – the additional facilities will mean we can provide more opportunities for women and girls to play and enjoy football and futsal responding to the demand created from the visibility and successes of the Lionesses. Furthermore, the proposals will enable the club to provide training facilities for our adult women’s teams in Maidenhead, preventing them from having to travel to Reading. Better athletic facilities will mean additional opportunities are available for women and girls to participate with Maidenhead Athletic Club activities.
People with Disability – Additional opportunities will be provided for people with a disability to play football through extending both our physical disability and autism soccer provision. New opportunities will be available for disabled people to take part in athletics, currently this is not possible due to the dilapidated state of the existing track. The new covered sports hall has been specifically designed to support wheelchair sports, which would see the facilities being used by Berkshire Banshees Wheelchair Rugby.
Older People – The wellbeing facilities proposed would enable the club to extend our wellbeing support activities, which are particularly designed to support older people experiencing disadvantage, loneliness and social isolation.
Children & Young People – again the proposal will extend the opportunities available to children and young people to enjoy and participate in sport and physical activity. Given the local priorities to reduced childhood obesity and to support the mental wellbeing of this group this can only be considered a positive.
Minority Groups – Maidenhead United has a diverse supporter and participant base, one of the key benefits of the new stadium is that it will enable the club to provide an environment which is welcoming, accessible and safe for all, including improved disabled access and facilities and dedicated alcohol-free areas within the ground to be enjoyed by families and communities, removing alcohol as barrier to engagement.
We have provided a significant amount of information within this email, underlining the importance of this proposal to the long-term future of the club and community sport more widely within Maidenhead.
Maidenhead United FC is a vital part of the fabric and history of the town. A growing community club, with successful men’s and women’s first teams that are well supported by local residents, as well a provider of an extensive and growing grassroots football and wider community sports/wellbeing programmes which create opportunities for thousands of local people to take part in sports and recreational activities every week locally.
Our need for new and additional facilities has been clearly established and there can be no doubt that the potential benefits of this proposal to the town and the local community are significant in terms of both supporting the local economy and improving the health and wellbeing of local people.
Given the financial challenges RBWM faces, this proposal also offers significant financial and strategic benefits to the Council including:
The receipt of £460,000 to invest in service provision.
Much needed additional astroturf and athletic facilities for the town delivered at no cost to Council and alleviating obligation to find funding they do not have to deliver these essential facilities.
Increased opportunities for local people of all ages to play sport, be active, be connected and live healthy independent lives, benefits, which can only support the Councils objective to reduce demand for and the cost of the statutory services they provide.
The new facility will have no match day car parking on site, with the car parks on Stafferton Way and Vicus Way being the primary parking facilities for the stadium, providing the Council additional revenue income to invest in essential services from car parking sites which are currently underutilised.
There can be no doubt that our proposals will provide significant social and economic benefit to the local community through the enhancement of the existing sports and recreation facilities at Braywick Sports Ground. A positive decision will show that even in the most financially challenging times, your administration can deliver the additional sporting and recreational facilities Maidenhead desperately needs. A legacy which will have positive impact for generations.
We hope that following your detailed consideration at the meeting on Wednesday, Cabinet will reach this conclusion and confirm the statutory open space notice has been completed satisfactorily so the proposal can move to as originally intended.
Tagged as: Club
Share this post: