THEY were relegated two weeks ago but on Wednesday, Harrogate Rugby Club unveiled relocation plans they believe will secure the future of rugby in the town.
With the funding and support of developer landlords Crest Nicholson, and subject to planning consent, Harrogate hope to move lock-stock to a new site on Rudding Lane, south east of the town.
An application for facilities on 26 acres of green belt land, not inside the Rudding Park hotel complex, will be submitted to the council this summer.
It’s set to include a single-storey clubhouse, three full-size pitches, junior pitches and a training area under lights, but not floodlights.
Crest will also submit a new planning application for housing and open space at Claro Road to fund the new relocation.
The company bought the County Ground in 1999 and have so far been unsuccessful in securing consent upon it.
At present, that site is zoned for recreational purpose under the local development framework.
But as development partners the club and Crest both feel the time is right, and that this is a step forward in terms of the club’s future.
Chairman Paul Barnard steps down in July, and the relocation plans are the result of his work alongside Crest in finding the perfect new home for the 140-year-old club, whose present lease expires on July 31, 2013.
“At last we have found a location that has received support and will enable the club to provide a facility fit for purpose and to fulfil its commitment to the Harrogate community to make the game of rugby available to all,” he said.
“It has been a long and drawn out process but over the last few months we’ve been actively working with our development partners Crest Nicholson to secure this site and thus the future of the club for many years to come.
“At the same time we will be submitting an outline application for new housing and open space on the Claro Road site.
“The development of this site will help fund the relocation.”
As the club seeks to reassert its community links, it will hold a public consultation in conjunction with Crest at Claro Road next week.
This will take place on Wednesday and Thursday between 2-8pm.
Boards showing plans for both schemes will be available to view, with club officials and Crest technical officers on hand to discuss the proposals and answer questions.
Feedback will then be considered before the final applications are submitted.
Rugby club spokesman Michael Armstrong said the relocation was imperative in securing the club’s future.
“After the Moorlands Farm application, the club wasn’t pro-active in terms of looking at relocation,” he said.
“Then the original lease came to an end in 2009, and at that point we were very close to not being able to continue.
“But Paul Barnard and treasurer Dave Wheat came in and stabilised the club.
“It’s through them that we have been able to build a strong relationship with Crest and bring forward what we want to do in terms of the future.
“We hope members will be supportive of us.”
Harrogate will buy the new land outright, and should permission be granted on both schemes, work will start at Rudding Lane in April next year, and the club installed for 2014-15 season.
“The whole thing hinges on a successful application at Claro Road, and a successful application at Rudding Lane,” added Armstrong.
“The two can’t happen independently.
“But after going through the process of exploring several sites, and working very closely with Crest and the council, we identified a greenbelt location and will be bringing a planning application on that location in around three months’ time.
“We’ve chosen the site on the grounds that we believe it has a strong chance of securing planning.
“As a coach, and parent to children who play rugby I have a vested interest in seeing that rugby continues to be played in Harrogate.
“We are a community club and want to build on those strong links, so a player can join the club at the age of six, and play all the way through to the first team.
“That’s how it should work.
“All we need is a playing surface, and a clubhouse.”