Bath Rugby has announced that future plans for their proposed Stadium for Bath development on the site of the Recreation Ground will no longer feature an underground car park.
The rugby club wants to build an 18,000-seat stadium to replace its existing 14,500-capacity venue and had planned to submit final proposals in early 2020, but a submission remains outstanding following a protracted court case and the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement released earlier this week, Stadium for Bath, made up of Bath Rugby, Bath Rugby Foundation and Arena1865, said it had “identified a satisfactory design solution” to mitigate long-term flood risk which would not require raising of the pitch.
Opponents to the scheme have previously said the stadium will harm Bath’s World Heritage Site and the previously proposed under-pitch parking provision was incompatible with the new clean air zone and the council’s climate emergency declaration.
The statement reads: “The raising of the pitch in previous designs created the space for a public car park much like the adjacent parking under the Leisure Centre, with the provision of parking at the Rec compensating for the loss of other city-centre parking sites allocated for development and contributing to the financial sustainability of the development.
“The world has changed over the course of the pandemic. We no longer believe it is appropriate to base the sustainability of the stadium and the club on car parking. We will therefore not be including an under-pitch car park in future proposals for redevelopment at the Rec.”
While plans have not yet been made public, the exclusion of underground parking could lower the height of the proposed development, which was one of the major concerns by opponents.
Bath Rugby also confirmed it is appealing “a narrow legal point” on whether covenants on the Rec are enforceable and will impact future development of the site, such as the Stadium for Bath.
Bath Recreation Limited, who own the Rec, has also been granted permission to join appeal proceedings. A hearing is due to be heard in Autumn 2021.
In the meantime, Bath Rugby has said it will continue to operate its temporary stadium facilities at the Rec.
The statement continues: “Our commitment to the city and to the contribution we can make through playing rugby at the Rec is undiminished.
“We will continue to consider solutions for an appropriate design at the Rec, which must also be financially sustainable over the long-term. The appeal hearing in the Autumn is an important next step on the journey.
“We recognise the support from so many people across Bath for this project, and we are hugely appreciative for the significant contributions to our many consultations on the project.”
Speaking last year, Bath Rugby’s Chief executive Tarquin McDonald said that the new stadium is “an opportunity to create an amazing development” for the city.
Following the announcement that under-pitch parking would be removed from future plans, Bath Preservation Trust’s Chief Executive Caroline Kay said: “Bath Preservation Trust welcomes the statement from Bath Rugby concerning the plans for a stadium on the Rec.
“In particular we welcome the removal of proposals for a large car park under the pitch; partly for environmental reasons as car parking encourages car travel and partly because we assume this removal will enable there to be a reduction in the overall height of any new stands.
“We are concerned that a reduction of height is not made explicit in the statement and will work constructively with Bath Rugby and Bath Recreation Ltd to help find an acceptable solution for the heart of the World Heritage Site while hoping to retain the historic vibrancy of Rugby on the Rec.
“We note that the next step is a legal appeal; BPT has not engaged with either side on the issue of the Rec covenants and will await the outcome of the Court process.”