BTFC cannot stay at the Camrose, as it is no longer economically or practicably feasible. The departure of chairman Rafi Razzak also ends his significant ongoing financial support, without which the club would have closed many years ago. Rafi has made it clear that he wants to recover his loans to the club through the redevelopment of the Camrose site, which, if done effectively, could also generate some additional money for BTFC to invest in a new ground.
Plan B has involved the review of potential sites in and around the town and discussions with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) the planning authority and major landowner in Basingstoke, to try and find new sites for the club, and to see what kind of redevelopment of Camrose would be acceptable to them.
After reviewing several sites, BTFC had concentrated on just two options, but we can now confirm that neither option is possible.
The search for a greenfield site was dependent upon getting enough money from the redevelopment of Camrose to clear the company debts, cover the cost of the land and generate enough income to pay for the building of a brand new stadium.
Commenting on this option Rafi Razzak says: “This was effectively Plan A – ‘Lite’, a smaller capacity ground than proposed for Old Oak Common, but requiring millions of pounds for the new build. The only way we could deliver this was via approval of a retail development for Camrose, i.e. a high value land redevelopment.
“It is clear from our informal discussions with BDBC, that they would probably favour a housing proposal for Camrose. This would constitute a lower value redevelopment scheme and would result in substantially diminished capital available to re-site BTFC.”
As a result BTFC looked at redeveloping the Winklebury football site, currently occupied by Hampshire Football Association. With previous football activity at the site and space, in our view, to accommodate both Hampshire FA and BTFC, this seemed like an ideal compromise. This would be an enhancement of an existing football facility and so would require considerably less expenditure than developing from scratch on a green field site.
The Winklebury redevelopment would be possible with an appropriate housing scheme at Camrose. However, through ongoing discussions with the Council and the Hampshire FA, this is no longer an option.
Rafi continues: “Hampshire FA has been in discussion with BDBC for some time and has recently submitted detailed plans, very similar to those BTFC were working on, for the redevelopment of the Winklebury site for their own needs. Hampshire FA considered leaving the site, but has decided to stay and increase its use of the facilities at Winklebury. They do not want any partners and have developed a business plan that would not allow enough pitch time for BTFC.
“I have no issue with Hampshire FA’s proposals as they are simply trying to utilise the site more effectively and become more self-sufficient. However, I believe it would be unlikely that BDBC would favour a new scheme over a similar proposal from the incumbent tenant with a substantial lease on the site. Effectively we have wasted time and money looking at this scheme.
“We are very disappointed with the lack of tangible help from BDBC, which despite encouraging us to submit proposals over several years, stopped our original plans for a new stadium in the town last year. At numerous meetings since then, they have offered to help, but in reality they have not offered any new sites for us to consider and they seem unlikely to allow a retail development at Camrose – which could help BTFC to build a new stadium within the town.
“We are now left with few options, and anything we do from now will only involve ourselves. It’s very sad indeed”, concluded Rafi.
BTFC, is very aware of concerns among fans who, understandably, want to know what is happening and where the club will play football next year. We will continue to develop plans for a contingency site and will give updates when further information is available.