Thanet Council’s decision to sell full ownership of the WW Martin Community Stadium to long-term tenants from Ramsgate Football Club will boost long-term plans to set up a business and education center on the site, said Chairman James Lawson.
Last October, Mr Lawson told The Isle of Thanet News the ambition to spend between ‘£2-3m’ on a new stand on the north side of the stadium, which will also serve as a college for the 14-16 year.
With the approval of the lease sale, confirmed at a cabinet meeting of Thanet Council last night (September 22), those plans can now take a step forward.
The club is currently on a 21-year lease from 1 May 1992 at a rent of £1,500 a year.
Council approval means the club can buy full ownership of the site for £265,000 with a 50% overrun provision on any increase in value following a change in use, and a restriction on the use of the land , limiting it to uses as a football pitch. club and associated purposes only.
A clause must be included to mean that the land cannot be sold for a period of five years.
Ramsgate Football Club has been on the site for over 70 years and provides a service to the community by encouraging children to play sport. It is one of the organizations participating in the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) program which aims to address food poverty, inactivity, isolation and learning loss in children, through activities and providing a hot meal and healthy snacks during school holidays. .
The club’s community use has benefited from a £1million investment for the new Sun Deck (pictured), WW Martin Stadium and 3G pitch, with the all-weather surface meaning the ground can be used “every minute of every day” by players of all ages as well as schools, colleges, youth organizations and community teams.
At the board meeting, Cllr Rick Everitt said he favored the freehold sale, which would allow the club to apply for external grants, but questioned whether the site was ‘ideal’ for its use and raised the possibility that success could mean the need for greater ground and failing fortunes could also be problematic.
He suggested a higher overrun rate – where the value above the sale price is shared between the club and the council in the event of a sale – and asked for assurances that the use restriction was adequate. He added that it was “not a reflection” on Ramsgate FC but that the council has a “duty to the ratepayers of Thanet to protect their interests as well”.
Officers said the restriction is in the land title and therefore ‘permanent’, and would need to have the changes approved by the authority.
Council leader Ash Ashbee said: “It’s so much more than a football club”, adding: “It’s not just football, it’s the HAF programme. The club has built a relationship very close with the local community, so from that point of view I think it’s the perfect place.
Mr Lawson said: “The football club recently invested in the stadium to convert it into a modern 3G facility which has propelled it to become one of the leading community clubs in the country.
“They now have nearly 1,000 young players, an extensive holiday program which regularly attends over 400 local families and the club attracts over 3,000 people from Thanet and surrounding areas through the gate each week for a variety of activities. and events.
“The current investment has created a safe space that local families trust as an environment for entertainment and education.
“The club, through its charity called Ramsgate Active Education Foundation, has full-time staff members in local schools and uses these relationships in conjunction with its hundreds of local business partners to create a unique space where education and l job mix.
“The decision to sell full ownership to the club is a big step towards its ultimate ambition to build a new stand which can become a mixed business and education center to meet local unemployment reduction targets and help raise wages. means.”