A Bury St Edmunds sports club has expressed interest in using an adjacent field - which campaigners are seeking to protect - to meet its future expansion or relocation needs.
Representatives from Bury Rugby Club have had ‘informal discussions’ with landowners of the town’s Leg of Mutton site about their aspirations for the club’s growth and how the field could meet its need for additional playing and training space for its expanding youth player base.
A spokeswoman for the club, which currently has 585 players and members, said: “The club has not yet reached the stage of consulting with its membership, because so far there are no specific proposals to discuss.
“However, subject to their views, the club could, in future, support this location as a potential relocation or expansion site, with its excellent access to the road and transport network, along with its connectivity to the town centre and the other leisure facilities in this part of the town.”
The Bury Water Meadows Group (BWMG) has fought to protect the Leg of Mutton field from development since publication of St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s proposed Vision 2031 plans and is seeking funds to purchase the land to preserve it solely for open public access.
BWMG chairman Andrew Hinchley said he was ‘unhappy’ about the rugby club’s interest in the site because, unlike the BWMG proposal, which would provide ‘a green space for all ages’, the club’s would appeal, mostly, to men of a certain age.
He added that, if the club was to relocate, its current site ‘would probably go to a large housing development’ and there would be ‘no net green space gain’ for the town.
He said: “They have a fair amount of space there and it’s relatively unused during the week. There’s a limited space in the middle of the town and they’ve got quite a large chunk of it already. We’re trying to provide space for all ages every day of the week.
“It’s a great club, very popular in the town, no-one’s going to knock it for that but it’s in the centre of town and I think, with the way Bury’s expanding, this needs to be something that can appeal to everybody, and that’s what we’re trying to offer.”
The club’s spokeswoman said: “Additional space and facilities are increasingly needed by the club for the growing interest in men’s, ladies and, especially, youth rugby activities.
“The club already has over 20 teams playing rugby, including four senior men’s teams, one ladies team and juniors’ teams at every age from six to 18, with many age groups having more than one team. A girls’ team is being started for next season.”
“They are all looking to develop their skills and fitness at the club and need additional pitches to support their activity.”