Bishop's Stortford sports clubs set to compete for £500,000 funding from town council
Bishop’s Stortford Town Council is setting a funding goal for sports clubs.
As part of its plans to boost leisure activities, the council is setting up a bidding process for groups to net a share of up to £500,000 for major projects.
The new strategy was sparked by a plea from Bishop’s Stortford Rugby Football Club for £225,000 from BSTC to match a commitment from East Herts Council towards the £700,000 refurbishment of its clubhouse.
BSRFC representative Peter Scarlett told the council's finance and policy committee the club and its 300 volunteers were working hard to raise the town’s profile through their sporting success and the progress of players like Max Malins, who spent a decade honing his skills with Stortford and is now a Saracens player, currently on loan to Bristol Bears, who has just made his debut for England in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Mr Scarlett told councillors their support to revamp outdated changing facilities at the National League 1 club's Silver Leys ground was “absolutely essential”.
“We have no sugar daddy with deep pockets and now we really need your help,” he said.
Councillors have already made it clear they appreciate the club’s contribution to the town and look favourably on its application, but the committee took advice from chief executive James Parker who said: “The process for application and the conditions of any award of a grant of this magnitude is open, fair and transparent.”
He suggested a strategy which will identify all of the funds available and how they should be allocated to different categories and then allow all of the town’s sporting organisations the same chance to make their case for cash.
The council has bulging coffers. Thanks to new developments, it has New Homes Bonus money totalling £518,000 available now for strategic priorities including the town centre, cycle infrastructure, strategic work on allotments and cemetery, inclusivity and, crucially, sports and leisure.
BSTC has already begun a feasibility study on proposals for a sports complex to rival Wodson Park in Ware.
Its leisure aspirations are being bolstered by cash from the sale of allotments at Farnham Road which it sold to education authority Herts County Council for the new Avanti Meadows nursery and primary school.
The town has already banked £2.4m and will receive at least £4.1m more when HCC sells two parcels of land originally allocated for smaller primary schools at St Michael’s Hurst and Stortford Fields.
The funds must be spent on capital projects. The town council has already resolved to spend up to £3m on a new arts centre at Old River Lane in partnership with East Herts. As a result, last year councillors decided not to determine how to spend the £3.5m balance until it has actually received the cash.
Projects can also be funded by the Brazier Trust, which the town council administers and which is £50,000 in the black, or by adding to its annual council tax precept. Funding the rugby club’s request alone would increase a band D household’s annual bill by £15.
Mr Parker advised that the New Homes Bonus was probably the best source of sporting funds. The committee was told that the town’s cricket and running clubs both had building plans too.
Cllr George Cutting said: “As far as other organisations are concerned, of course we don't want to preclude them, but right now we have received a very well put together proposal from an organisation that is rewarding this town in spade loads.”
Cllr Louie Corpe said: “I would like to recognise the contribution made by the rugby club, but I’m mindful of the advice from the chief executive about transparency... and to take a step back and not rush into anything.”
Cllr Terence Beckett said any projects awarded funding should have to ensure they met strict sustainability targets and be carbon neutral.