New training facility gets green lightThe club are very pleased to confirm that last week Wokingham Borough Council resolved to grant planning permission for the development of our new training and Academy facility at Bearwood Park in Wokingham.
Contracts were initially exchanged with the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation for the purchase of nearly 120 acres of land back in October 2013.
Plans were drawn up and openly exhibited to supporters and residents in December 2013, at which point the public were able to view the plans for the first time and discuss aspects of the scheme with members of the Club's appointed development team.
Permission to develop was then formally requested and it has now been approved for our first team and Academy home to be situated on the Bearwood Park estate.
The club’s training facilities have been based at our current Hogwood Park facility since 2004 and with the natural evolution of the club and our investment in the new EPPP structure for elite Academies, this new development will help the club in its aim to maintain the best possible Academy category status within that structure.
The new site plans to host a total of 13 different-sized football pitches, including three full size first team pitches which will be designed to mirror the exact dimensions of Madejski Stadium, a floodlit all-weather surface and two goalkeeping practice areas
It will be home to a purpose-built first team building and a separate Academy facility as well as a number of various other ancillary buildings. The development of the site will also involve extensive landscaping of the park and the refurbishment of a number of existing buildings.
In addition, the Grade II* star listed park will be removed from the ‘at risk’ register after the conclusion of the development - the work that will be undertaken as part of the site’s remediation will sufficiently rejuvenate the heritage asset to take it out of English Heritage’s ‘at risk’ category.
Development work on the site is due to begin shortly and it is hoped that some of the facilities will be in place for use in the summer of 2016.
Reading Football Club’s Chief Executive, Nigel Howe, said “We’ve been working on this development for a couple of years, not including the years we spent looking for the right site. So now, to have planning permission granted, it is an incredible result for Reading Football Club.
“When we first relocated to Hogwood Park, we thought we had the perfect facility. And it has been a fantastic venue for the club’s second home. But especially in terms of the EPPP requirements on the club, we have now outgrown it.
“This new site will be host to Academy players from the ages of eight to eighteen as well as our young professionals and the first team squad, coaching staff and management. It will be a facility that demonstrates our ambition to improve, a training ground which will hopefully help us to attract the best young players to the club.
“There is still a little bit of final legal work to complete with the council before we can get started, but we are looking forward to seeing an exciting development start to take shape.”
Co-Chairman Sir John Madejski commented, “This is a major step forward in the history of Reading Football Club and a really positive move in terms of its future. I would like to thank all who have dedicated so much time and hard work in planning this new state-of-the-art training facility, especially Chief Executive Nigel Howe who has been the spearhead of this exciting project. I now look forward to seeing the development process begin.”
Nick Collins, Architectural Partner at Barton Willmore, who provided architectural, landscape design and planning services, added “The design and landscaping respects this historic and picturesque setting, ensuring that the scheme provides the site with much needed rejuvenation, whilst also continuing to provide a comprehensive management plan for the future. As well as extensive refurbishment of existing agricultural and residential buildings, which will improve the visual and build quality, the new buildings are framed within the dense green landscape, providing a scenic backdrop to facilities of the highest quality.”
Wokingham Borough Council stated, “The proposals, although representing a major development, are modest in terms of their impact upon the Site and the surrounding area. Careful consideration and assessment work undertaken by the Club has resulted in a scheme which respects and enhances both the setting and historic and conservational importance of the wider Historic Park and Garden within which it sits.”
This is a positive step forward into the future for Reading Football Club, our Academy and indeed the local community. We would like to thank Wokingham Borough Council as well as the Environment Agency, English Heritage and Natural England for their support with our plans so far.