Bath Rugby's 'ugly' stand set to be allowed to stay up this summer

Councillors are set to decide whether Bath Rugby can keep its East Stand up throughout the summer — or whether it should have to take it down for what could be the last summer of an open Recreation Ground.

Under the current rules for Bath Rugby’s temporary stands, the club must take down the East Stand outside of the rugby season so the Recreation Ground can be an open space for about three months of the year. The million pound a year cost of removing and replacing the stand each year is one key reason the club is planning to build a permanent 18,000-seat stadium on the site, which they hope to start work on next year if it is granted planning permission.

But in the meantime, the club has applied to Bath and North East Somerset Council to keep the East Stand up throughout this summer — the last year for which planning permission for the temporary stands lasts. But locals have said they want the “ugly” stand down for the summer.

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A planning application to remove the requirement to take it down each year is set to go before Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee on Wednesday June 5.

A letter submitted with the planning application by Bath Rugby’s planning agents Turley said: “In our view, it is difficult to see how a development that is considered acceptable on planning grounds for 39 weeks of the year (as the current temporary East Stand is), would not also be acceptable for 52 weeks of the year.”

It added that the rest of the space remained playing fields for use by other sports and added that Somerset County Cricket Club have not used the Recreation Ground for over ten years. The letter also pointed out that the current planning rules require a scheme to restore the grass once the East Stand is taken down, adding: “This open land area is therefore not usable by the public as the grass regrows as it is fenced off – only again to be covered by the reinstated East Stand a few weeks later.”

The letter added that taking the stand down each year was a “significant intrusion and inconvenience” to neighbours, and that the facilities would be useful for the Bath Carnival, University of Bath graduations, and other events happening this summer if the stand was kept up.

Planning officers at Bath and North East Somerset Council have recommended the planning permission to be granted, but the decision has been called in to the council’s planning committee by councillor Toby Simon (Bathwick, Liberal Democrat) so it can be made in public due to the level of public interest. 52 people have submitted objections to the plans, with just four people lodging messages of support.

M Sewell wrote: “I live next to the Recreation Ground, and the absence of the ugly and dominant East Stand during the summer months is something I look forward to. The brief period of noise and upheaval is well worth it.”

Ann Curtis said she objected strongly to Bath Rugby’s “continued attempts to wriggle out of deinstalling the East Stand.” She said: “The East Stand strongly affects the heritage views the city is famous for, and are an integral part of the city's World Heritage status.”

She added: “The rugby club and its representatives are trying to leverage historic green space in the centre of the World Heritage Site to expand their stadium and business model in order to turn around a loss making concern. It is not in the interests of the citizens of this city to bail their business out using land held in trust for the community and future generations.”

Mark N M Macdonald went further. He said: “It is time for the whole lot to come down and the space be allowed to be free of Bath Rugby's commercialisation of the city's green space. They are tenants to an open public space and ought to abide with that fact. If they want a rugby domain, they can move altogether and have sovereignty.”

But, lodging a comment in support, Patricia Meakins said: “I am proud of our city, of the area in which I live, and also the fact that the Bath Rugby ground and surroundings are an integral part of what we are. I walk the city every day, through and around the grounds. It feels a part of what Bath is about: I can still view the skyline, I can still walk it, and I take in the view including the rugby ground and buildings.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee will meet at 11am in the Banqueting Room in the Guildhall in Bath on June 5 to discuss the plans and other applications.

You can view the application here.