Ampthill Rugby Club's TV tower and dugouts can remain all year due to financial impact of summer removal

Planning conditions adjusted to enable rugby club's temporary structures to stay in place all year round over five-year period on greenbelt site in Ampthill
Rugby Ball on a tee. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)Rugby Ball on a tee. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)
Rugby Ball on a tee. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)

A Championship rugby club in Bedfordshire can leave its dugouts and a television tower in place all year round to help it financially, while the search for a permanent home continues.

Ampthill and District Community Rugby Club wants to remove a planning condition and vary another, as part of its management plan at its ground in Woburn Road.

A five-year planning permission for temporary structures as part of its operations was granted this January, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

“Among several conditions was the requirement to dismantle and remove the television towers and dugouts between May and August each summer,” said the report.

“The club has provided financial information indicating this would have a significant adverse impact on its finances and ability to compete in the Championship.

“It wants a planning condition scrapped and another varied to allow those two structures to remain in place for the five-year period.

“Dillingham Park lies within the greenbelt, south of the long-established Ampthill RUFC grounds. It’s bound by the Cooper’s Hill site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and is located within the Mid Greensand Ridge landscape character area.

“Temporary units given planning consent in January included a chilled bar store, mobile bar, a shed for serving, covered standing areas, toilets, television stands and a medical centre.”

Senior planner Janine Richardson explained: “Without the structures, the team would be unable to participate at Championship level to the detriment of the club, as well as future access and participation at a grassroots level.

“No objections have been received. The temporary nature of the structures clearly outweighs the harm they create during those four months from May until August.”

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Green Party councillor Susan Clinch was also speaking for Independent ward councillors Gary Summerfield and Mark Smith, as well as “a large number of local residents” to support the application.

“The club is a central part of the town’s identity and well supported,” she said. “We’re keen to back the club continuing to compete at Championship level and to survive.

“But the first team pitch is on a hugely sensitive site boundaried by a nationally important habitat island, one of the few remaining areas of lowland heath, and the club has special responsibilities towards that.

“This excellent report captures the conflict within Ampthill to protect the local habitat and open space amenity for residents, alongside the rugby club’s need for facilities to play.

“I can’t overstate the value of the open space view across the pitch from high land of the Greensand Ridge westwards towards Woburn.

“We want these conditions to be highlighted to the club that the position of buildings on the site is fine because they’re temporary.

“We know it follows through a huge amount of complex procedures to compete well at the current level.”

Ms Richardson replied: “The conditions are quite clear. If enforcement action were to be required that would be done through the appropriate channels.”

Councillors approved the planning condition alterations, with 11 votes in favour and one abstention.