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Town council votes for £500,000 loan to save Ringwood Football Club overhaul project, amid spiralling £3m cost

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MOVES have been made to apply for a £500,000 loan to help save an ambitious sports project in Ringwood where inflation has tripled costs to nearly £3m.

Ringwood town councillors voted in principle to seek help from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) after learning of "significant risk" to the plan to turn Ringwood Football Club into a major community sports hub.

Initially the scheme at Long Lane was costed between £1m and £2m, but a report by town clerk Chris Wilkins said that had now spiralled to nearer £3m because construction costs have risen "significantly" in recent months.

An artist's impression of the clubhouse (photo: AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust)
An artist's impression of the clubhouse (photo: AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust)

While there will be help of up to £1m from the Football Foundation, estimates suggested a shortfall amounting to £500,000, Mr Wilkins told a town council meeting.

The high-profile scheme, approved by New Forest District Council, is a partnership between the club, town council and AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust, the Championship club's charitable arm.

To save the scheme, the trust proposed the council apply for the PLWB, repayable over decades, with the trust covering the full cost of the loan repayments for the full term.

Those repayments would take the place of any rent the trust pays. Currently the town council gets £2,360 per year for the site and booking fees for grass pitches, so the authority will lose some income, the report said.

But Mr Wilkins added: "Options are limited. As stated, no other means of filling the funding gap appear available at present.

"Accordingly, if the council doesn’t accept the trust’s proposal there is a significant risk that the project may have to be cancelled at this stage."

An aerial view of the plans (photo: AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust)
An aerial view of the plans (photo: AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust)

The project has a lot of public support and recently won praise when planning permission was granted by NFDC.

It involves replacing the pavilion with a hub containing changing rooms, a café and spaces for community groups, plus a new, full-sized 3G artificial turf pitch, improving the existing grass pitches and expanding the car park into 85 bays.

The trust has said it will move some staff to the site to manage it and run sports training and mental health sessions.

Also planned are programmes to boost girls' and women’s football, open up the sport to those with disabilities and older people through walking-football tournaments.

The trust has leased the land from the town council to make the scheme happen.

Previously, Ringwood FC chair Phil King had said the plan will galvanise the club’s headquarters for many years to come "with a modern, full-purpose facility that will be the future for our 376 players across our 26 teams, aged from as young as six to as old as 60-plus".

The contract for construction of the artificial turf pitch has been awarded to Tiger Turf, with Knights Brown appointed principal contractor for all the other works.

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