Football project stalled by shortfall in funding

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A community football project on Moreton Hall, in Bury St Edmunds, is going back to the drawing board following an initial shortfall in funding.

The partners have now taken the opportunity to see whether the project could be tied into designs for the proposed high school on the site.

Those funding the project are Bury Town Football Club, the Football Foundation, Football Stadia Improvement Fund, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk Football Association.

Recently the partnership received tenders for the work, but all proved to be significantly higher than the funding currently available.

The project had raised a potential £2.5 million of funding (£1 million from St Edmundsbury and £1.5 million from other sources). There is no additional external funding currently available and although the partners are not able to bridge the funding gap at present they do feel an alternative scheme may be workable.

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, Cabinet member for health, wellbeing and sport, said: “This gives the council a real opportunity to look at shared options for the site through cooperation with the proposed new school. St Edmundsbury has had considerable success in working with partners to deliver football facilities in Haverhill and Clare and we are confident that we can work together to deliver something similar in Bury. I think the end result could be something really exciting and innovative and meanwhile we’ll make sure the football club has the support it needs at Ram Meadow.”

Cllr Terry Clements, Chairman of the Shadow Board of Bury Community Sports Association (the project partners) said: “We recently heard that the specification for a school on that site has been confirmed so our next step is to see whether we can tie the community football project more closely into the school’s facilities and infrastructure. We will go back to the drawing board and come up with something better.”

The project was planned to deliver a full-size artificial surface for football and a Suffolk FA coaching and player development centre and grass pitches. As well as a new home for Bury Town FC, the community football project would have provided facilities for all ages and abilities and the necessary car parking and infrastructure. The scheme was due to be completed by early autumn 2014. If a new scheme can be agreed it could run on a parallel timescale to the school.

Meanwhile, St Edmundsbury will support Bury Town at their existing Ram Meadow ground. The ground will need upgrading to satisfy league requirements if the club is promoted at the end of the season but improvements, such as a new stand, could be relocated to the Moreton Hall scheme.

Phil Smailes, Vice Chairman of Bury Town Football Club, said: “It is really unfortunate that we haven’t been able to get all the money together for the community football project and the club’s relocation. However it is great news that the council will help us in the meantime at Ram Meadow while we develop our options for the new ground and we know the council is supporting us through discussions with the league.”

Laura Smith, Chief Executive of Suffolk Football Association, said: “It is disappointing that the considerable challenge of attracting all the funding has not been possible at the moment although all the community football project partners are pulling together to work up other options to make it possible. We are pleased to hear the council will continue to support Bury Town so we still have hopes for future football development possibilities.”

The Football Foundation has said it remains supportive of the scheme and is keen to remain involved in its development. A new funding application to the Football Foundation would need to be made by the partners once designs are finalised.