Isle of Wight Councillor for Newport North – Matt Price – is seeking public feedback on a new proposal to rehome the County Town’s football club at a rejuvenated Seaclose Park
Under the scheme, Newport FC would return to the parish of Newport, rather than move to its approved new stadium at the Racecourse as part of a series of recreational improvements to Seaclose aimed at encouraging greater community use of the park.These enhancements would include the marking out of football and cricket pitches in other areas of the park, the introduction of new removable sports equipment and upgraded walking and cycling routes.
The centrepiece of the plan is a new football ground with a grandstand, clubhouse, floodlights and the latest all-weather pitch – in the south-western corner of the park – that would be available for organised community use, while providing a new home for Newport FC who are currently hosted by footballing rivals East Cowes Vics.
Matt said the Seaclose idea came about last year during discussions about the relocation of Newport FC as part of plans for a retail park at the club’s former home at St George’s Park. Though the developer has permission for a new ground at the Racecourse at Whippingham, Matt believes the Seaclose alternative should be revisited as it had the potential to provide much wider community benefit. Crucially for Newport FC fans, the new location – just a short, walk or cycle from the town centre – would bring the 130-year-old club much closer to the heart of Newport than the consented Racecourse alternative.
The new ground – to the south of the planning offices and to the west of the bowling green – would continue to be owned by the IW Council. Newport FC would pay a peppercorn rent (as anchor tenant), with a condition that other community uses – including women’s football, youth football and also sport for those with disabilities – should take place at the venue.
Cllr Price said: “Having seen off proposals to build 40 houses on land at Seaclose Park, it is right that we now look at how sports and recreational provision can be enhanced in this location. We have the opportunity to create both a top-class new home for Newport FC and also an excellent recreational facility for wider community use, along with a significantly improved skatepark (incorporating a pump track), similar to what has been put forward in Freshwater. It is well worth exploring, particularly as we need more outdoor facilities for people of all ages to enjoy.
As local member, I can see that providing a new football ground in either location would work but the Seaclose alternative ensures that Newport FC remains in Newport, while also being much more accessible and offering greater immediate community benefits. The Seaclose option incorporates all the facilities included in the Racecourse plan – and more – so ultimately we have to decide which of these locations would be best.”
The Seaclose alternative is already supported, in principle, by the Newport FC Supporters Trust, while Matt said initial feedback from other elected members in the wider Newport & Carisbrooke parish area had also been positive.
But he said any new facility must not adversely affect the future of the Isle of Wight Festival at Seaclose Park. He added:
“The proposed area sits to the south of the main area used for hosting the Festival, but I recognise it does provide an area which is used in support. However, I believe this proposal can actually enhance and complement the festival site by providing additional hard standing backstage hospitality and accommodation. The scheme has been worked up with the festival’s requirements in mind.”
Pete Westhorpe, Secretary of Newport FC Supporters’ Trust, added:
“A move to Whippingham would give us a high-quality new ground, but I believe supporters would prefer this closer to the town centre if this could be delivered swiftly.
“Moving to Seaclose and bringing the club back into Newport would have its attractions for supporters and as such I welcome Cllrs Price’s initiative.”
Tony Wake, chairman of Newport Football Club and director of South Coast Leisure said: “The Whippingham site is where we have planned to relocate the club and we expect to make a start on the build towards the end of the summer but, time permitting,
“I am happy to keep the Seaclose alternative on the table for now should the council and the public agree it is better option.”
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