HORSHAM Football Club have today revealed they are on the brink of securing land for a new home at Hop Oast.
Chairman Kevin Borrett announced in a statement that negotiations to sign an option to purchase the land, part of the Horsham Golf & Fitness complex are at an ‘advanced stage’.
Mr Borrett said: “I am encouraged by the news that HDC’s new Leader, Councillor Ray Dawe, has indicated his backing for the Club’s intention to proceed with plans for a new ground.
“I understand that Cllr Dawe has been brought up to date with HFC’s plans for both a new ground south of Horsham and for its Holbrook site. I welcome his acknowledgement of the need for Horsham FC to have a permanent home in the town once again, following several years of uncertainty over the future of the Club. We have consulted closely with HDC Officers since our Planning Application at Holbrook was refused in 2008 to reach this point and greatly appreciate their assistance.
“A number of potential sites have been considered, one of which has emerged as the preferred location. It is currently part of the nine-hole Horsham Golf & Fitness pay and play facility at Hop Oast, a reasonable distance from any residential areas, yet is easily accessible by public transport and is served by a main road.
Horsham chief executive John Lines added: “Discussions to provide an option to purchase an area of land within the Golf Complex, subject to planning permission being granted, are at an advanced stage. “This will then be the first truly substantive step in what we believe will be an exciting and positive development not just for the club but for the community as a whole. “
Kevin Borrett continued: “If the planning applications in both North Horsham and Hop Oast are approved, we will be providing additional sporting facilities at Hop Oast. These will not simply be a place for Horsham FC first and youth teams to play their matches, but will also offer the opportunity for us to develop and grow a wide ranging community facility for properly organised Community Youth Football. This means girls as well as boys being able to make use of modern first class playing facilities. We have designed these facilities with a view to providing a 6th Form NVQ Academy of Football Excellence that will be something that both the town, its surrounding villages and the District can be proud of.
“There is still a long way to go before the full Planning Applications can be submitted and despite the desire to have our own home rather than ground-share as at present, we will not be rushed into taking any short cuts. This has to be right both for Horsham FC and for the town as a whole. An integral part of these plans is securing the long-term and sustainable future of The Holbrook Club on the remainder of the existing site that the club owns in North Horsham for which heads of terms on a new long lease have now been agreed.”
Commenting on the club statement, Ray Dawe, Leader of the Council said: “Since 2008 we have been in discussion with HFC to help them find a new suitable permanent home. The proposed package of development involving a new ground at Hop Oast and new homes on part of the Holbrook site, plus reinvestment in the Holbrook Club, has much to commend it.
Once planning applications are received, the details will be carefully evaluated by planning officers so that the impacts of the development in both locations can be fully understood. There will be widespread consultation with the two parish councils, local residents and external advisers such as the County Council and the Environment agency.
In due course reports will be submitted to the council’s planning committee which will make the final decisions.”
And Simon Charman, chairman of the Holbrook Club, which is owned by Horsham FC, added: “The Holbrook Club and HFC have been consulting for many months now, and have finally agreed the heads of terms for a new long term agreement for lease, pending planning permission. There are obviously still details to confirm, but an agreement looks promising. With support from HDC and HFC we hope to secure significant funding for investment in the Holbrook site.”
Full report, reaction and analysis in tomorrow’s West Sussex County Times.