Thursday, 11 August 2022

Rugby has month to ensure £475k revamp goes ahead

PLANS to renovate the clubhouse at Henley Rugby Club will be scrapped unless the Hawks can

PLANS to renovate the clubhouse at Henley Rugby Club will be scrapped unless the Hawks can raise £75,000 by the end of the year.

The club needs £475,000 for the project and has secured £400,000 with grants and loans from Henley Town Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and members.

But chairman Mike Trethewey says the project will be cancelled if the remaining money is not found by December 31.

The club has been given planning permission to refurbish the clubhouse with a new bar, kitchen and toilets and seating for up to 200 diners.

This is the first step in a major redevelopment of the club, which would be carried out in four phases over five years. The next phase would be a £300,000 extension with four new changing rooms followed by the erection of a new stand with a media centre, disabled viewing area and toilets.

The total cost of the work is estimated at £1.27million to £1.78million.

Writing on the club’s website, Mr Trethewey said: “This is the most important development to take place at the club in living memory and the clubhouse refurbishment will totally transform our surroundings and facilities.

“We need to raise the final £75,000 and we need to do it fast. We need to have all the money in the bank when we sign the building contracts in January for the work to start at the beginning of May. To date, just under 50 very generous members have contributed £100,000 but there are nearly 700 of us, so the task is certainly achievable but it does mean absolutely everybody has to contribute.

“Can I make one thing absolutely clear — if we do not raise the £75,000 by the end of December the project will be cancelled. We cannot let that happen.”

The names of all those who make a donation will be recorded in a legacy book and on an honours board. A donation of £75 will buy a paving stone, while larger donations could mean donors have part of the new facilities named after them.

Mr Trethewey said: “It’s crucial we get this money. I’m looking at it phase by phase and if we want to do this first phase we need the £475,000. If we don’t get that we won’t do the clubhouse. It would affect the club as well if we were not able to go ahead.

“What exactly we would do I don’t know but we would have to go back and look at it again. We have been given the money we have so far in order to do a particular thing, having shown plans and given presentations. If we changed the plans we would need to go back to the councils.

“We welcome absolutely anybody who wants to donate, including our members, anyone who goes to the club to play or take part in one of the groups or even just a supporter of the club.”

At a meeting last week, town councillors agreed to give the club £200,000, of which half would be a grant and the other half a loan. This follows a £100,000 grant awarded by the district council in September. Mr Trethewey said: “Such an amount is unprecedented and represents the town council’s recognition of the importance of the club to the community and its faith in our redevelopment plans.

“By providing such a large proportion of the required funds the two councils have given us a unique opportunity to build something substantial and lasting for future generations. We cannot let them down by not responding.”

The council’s finance committee had recommended that the entire £200,000 should be awarded as a grant but several councillors objected to this.

Councillor Jane Smewing said: “The size of this grant is unprecedented. I support the club — it does a lot of valuable work — and we should make available to them the £200,000 but it should be part-grant, part-loan.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann added: “This is an unprecedented sum, the largest I can think of in the past was £25,000 to the cricket club. We have to apply consistently a set of principles so that clubs which work their backsides off to pay back loans don’t see another one come along and just get the money. I think the full grant of £200,000 is too much. We have to be careful with taxpayers’ money.”

Cllr Simon Smith said the club still owed the council from a previous loan and should be given a £50,000 grant with no loan.

Councillor Kellie Hinton said: “We have told other sporting groups to go and raise the money but we haven’t said that to the rugby club and I feel ashamed that we have treated them differently.”

But Councllor David Nimmo Smith said: “This money is supporting a club in the town and helping to provide facilities for the youth. I would like to think we would give similar consideration to any other sporting clubs.”

Councillor Sam Evans said the club would provide a much-needed business hub.

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