Future of city centre leisure centre “at risk” if Bath Rugby loses appeal

The future of a city leisure centre could be at risk if Bath Rugby loses its High Court appeal, the club has warned.

Previous proposals for how the stadium would look from inside | Image © Stadium for Bath

Last year a judge ruled against Bath Rugby’s lawyers, who had legally challenged covenants on the Rec as unenforceable.

The 1922 covenants protect the site from development on the land which may cause a nuisance.

Bath Recreation Limited – the landlord to the rugby club, Bath and North East Somerset Council’s leisure centre and Bath Croquet Club – has been allowed to join the appeal proceedings because its future operations could also be affected.

If the ruling is upheld it could hinder Bath Rugby’s plans for a new 18,000-capacity “Stadium for Bath”.

Last week it dropped its controversial proposals for a 550-space car park underneath the pitch because “the world has changed” adding: “We no longer believe it is appropriate to base the sustainability of the stadium and the club on car parking”.

The club said the appeal hearing, due to be heard in October, was “important for Bath Recreation Limited’s future as operations could be impacted in relation to hosting events, and in other matters such as the future of the leisure centre”.

Asked if it was aware of any threat to the future of the leisure centre – which reopened in 2019 after a £10million refurbishment – the council said it had 48 years left on the lease.

Councillor Richard Samuel, acting leader and cabinet member for resources, said: “The council sees the statement from Bath Rugby that the proposed new Stadium for Bath will not include an under-pitch carpark as positive recognition of the club’s changing priorities.

“We will continue to work with the club to secure a sustainable development which meets our planning policies, supports cleaner air and helps tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

“The council has a lease agreement with Bath Rec Ltd for Bath Sports and Leisure Centre that started on April 1, 2014, and runs until October 10, 2069.”

As the case is under judicial consideration, participants are prohibited from public discussion elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Bath Recreation Ltd said: “Bath Recreation Ltd has been granted permission to join the appeal proceedings initiated by our tenant Bath Rugby.

“As the case has a significant impact on our future use of the whole of the recreation ground we will be independently represented in seeking clarity from the courts to best protect the charitable purposes of the property.

“No further statement on the court proceedings will be made until the result of the hearing is known.”

Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter

Bath Echo