An 84-year-old Warwickshire rugby club has taken the first big step in securing its long-term future with the acquisition of a new site, after its current ground was secured by HS2 for the planned London to Birmingham route.
The Old Saltleians, more widely known as The Old Salts, will move from their current but temporary site near Shard End to a new purpose-built ground at Water Orton in time for the new season start in September 2022 – with contractors just about to break ground.
This will be the third time that the Club has had to move. Previously the construction of the M42 and M6 Toll Road enforced a relocation, and now the planned HS2 route has meant that yet another move has had to be negotiated – causing some disruption and anxiety for this heritage sports club.
Ian Mercer, Partner at Chartered Surveyor firm, Bruton Knowles, has been representing the club since 2011 and throughout: “It has been a difficult time for Old Salts but with work starting on site we can now look forward to a more secure future and an opportunity for the club to set down permanent roots and ensure that its presence in the local community provides real value. Complex negotiations with HS2 have taken us a little longer than anticipated but all parties can now be genuinely delighted with the end result.
“This has been a truly memorable and challenging development, given the need to ensure uninterrupted play, whilst waiting for the new permanent site to be completed.”
The Club’s Design Team, alongside an independent project manager, has worked with HS2 to ensure that initial site preparations and planning progressed well with ecological surveys conducted and mains services all now in place.
Once complete, The Old Salts new home will cover some 17 acres, boast a new clubhouse equivalent in modern standards of significant size (with facilities planned for use by the local community as well as the club) extensive car and coach parking to serve the entire site, 3 senior pitches with state-of-the-art floodlighting to one, 3 junior and 2 dedicated mini-rugby pitches.
Mick Lee, Club Chairman at The Old Saltleians explains: “Old Salts has always been a community rugby club, providing a strong, vibrant identity in the local area for youth and adult players and spectators. The intention now is to break out of ‘survival mode’ and kick on, provide a home that we can all grow into, open the doors wide, inviting players of all ages and all skill levels to enjoy, whilst developing the women’s and girls’ section. Thus, continuing to introduce new generations to the sport and to the family environment it offers.”
“We also believe that investment made at our temporary home in Shard End will leave a useful legacy for another club to use, expand into or relocate to. We are grateful to Birmingham City Council for their support, in our exile, since 2018.
"We must thank the club members, partners and professional advisors RLF, the RFU for their guidance, North Warwickshire Borough Council for their governance and O'Brien Contractors for their support, hard work and belief in the project. This will mark a new era for the club, its players, supporters and the community. Rugby! A game for life!"
The CGI overview of the proposed plans for the new ground can be found here.
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