Recreation Ground (Bath)


Recreation Ground (Bath)

The Recreation Ground ("the Rec") is a large open space in the centre of Bath, next to the River Avon, used for recreational purposes by Bath residents and the public generally. [http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/investigations/inquiryreports/bath.asp The Recreation Ground, Bath - a statement under the Charities Act] , Charity Commission, 22/08/2007]

Part of the Rec (about 27%) is leased to Bath Rugby for use as a multi-use sports ground capable of holding 10,600 people, primarily for professional rugby union matches. During the summer the rugby ground's temporary East Stand is removed to make way for cricket on the larger pitch to the easternmost end of the Rec. This cricket pitch is used for local contests and by the Somerset County Cricket Club for two matches a year. Other parts of the eastern area are used by Bath Hockey Club and there are also tennis courts. There is a cricket pavilion at the William Street entrance to the ground.

In former years, the Rec was subject to flooding from the River Avon, but a flood alleviation scheme in the 1960s improved the flow of the river, though the ground can still get very boggy after heavy rains.__NOTOC__

Charitable Trust status

The Rec is operated by Bath and North East Somerset Council. However the exact legal status was unclear until July 2002, when the High Court determined that the Rec was held on charitable trusts and the council, as sole Trustee, was charged with maintaining the Rec as an "open space" and "as a recreational facility available for the benefit of the public at large." The trust registered as a charity in November 2002. [http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?chyno=1094519 The Recreation Ground, Bath] , Charity Commission, charity number 1094519]

As a result of the court’s determination, Bath Rugby's use of the Rec for professional rugby was inconsistent with the trusts of the Charity. Since then the Charity Commission has made annual orders authorising the charity to continue the lease to the rugby club of additional land required for premiership rugby while a permanent solution is sought. [http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Library/registration/pdfs/recgroundorder.pdf Charity Commission Case No: 607825] , Charity Commission, 20 July 2007] [ [http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=163490&command=displayContent&sourceNode=163316&contentPK=18190092&folderPk=89126&pNodeId=163047 Hopes grow for rugby at Rec] , Bath Chronicle, 24 August 2007] Bath Rugby hold a long running lease to the ground of the old "Flowerpot Stand", but this is not sufficent for professional rugby. [ [http://www.bathrugby.com/30_112.php Rec Development] , Bath Rugby, September/October 2006]

In 1975 Bath City Council, the predecessor council, built a Sports and Leisure Centre and car park on the south side of the Rec after taking legal advice that this was consistent with the trust obligations. [http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/committee_papers/Bath%20Rec%20Trust/BATHREC070606/09zaFirstappendix.htm The Bath Recreation Ground Trust - A Strategic Review] , 30 May 2007] However following the 2002 High Court determination, the Charity Commission decided this was a breach of trust by the council as Trustee. [ [http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/News/DailyBulletin/733190/Commission-castigates-council-land-use/9AF1FBE9A7F7840B4FBAA85C4B7DC0AD/ Commission castigates council over land use] , Andy Ricketts, Third Sector, 24 August 2007] In 2005 the council renewed Bath Rugby's temporary lease without the necessary prior consent from the Charity Commission. Consequently in February 2007 the Charity Commission made a protective order vesting all of the Rec in the Official Custodian for Charities while the council conducts a delayed strategic review, and new plans are agreed and implemented.

Future of the professional rugby venue

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have stated that by 2010 all Guinness Premiership rugby clubs will need a spectator capacity of at least 15,000, the Rec's current capacity is 10,600.

As a result, Bath Rugby's chief executive Bob Calleja wants to know if the club can develop the Recreation Ground. A strategic review of the future of the venue was started in October 2006. Calleja told the Western Mail: "We would like an amber light to be able to proceed by February 2007. We would clearly put our focus on staying at and developing the Rec, but if that was impossible and we were forced to move, then the other options would become serious considerations. But don't mention Swindon or Bristol or Timbuktu, because we have no intention of Bath Rugby playing anywhere but Bath." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/my_club/bath/5346604.stm Bath seek answers on stadium plan] , BBC, 14 September 2006. Last accessed 11 November, 2006.] In March 2007 the trustees of the Rec received the Independent Report of the Strategic Review showing support for the development of the ground by 87% of Bathonians. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/6491371.stm Board supports latest rec survey] , BBC, 24 March 2007. Last accessed 21 April, 2007.] [http://www.bathrugby.com/4007_6045.php Bob Calleja comments on the findings of the Strategic Review]

New Trustees were appointed for the Rec and they immediately agreed at their meeting (6th June 2007) to put forward the proposal of the Strategic Review accepting option 2 "Variations to the current use (Keep the Rugby Club on the Rec and enlarge the footprint of the existing lease with the additional land requested by the Club as well as keeping the leisure centre on the Rec)". The Charity Commission responded in their letter to the Trustees of 6th March 2008 [http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/committee_papers/Bath%20Rec%20Trust/BATHRECTRUST080310/08CharityCommissionletter.htm Charity Commission Letter] which states "For the Commission to consider if it can lawfully exercise its powers in considering the Trust Board's request to have power to grant a lease of further additional land to Bath Rugby Club ('the Club'), we need to be fully satisfied that any detriment arising to the charity from the proposed is significantly outweighed by all the benefits that the Rec will receive. If it is not for the benefit of the charity, legally, we cannot proceed further."

The new Trustees have been working with the Club and the Charity Commission to resolve the issue of the Club providing more benefits to the Charity than the detriment of releasing yet more land to the Club bringing their use of the Rec to about 29% and allowing a capacity of 15,000. In July 2008 there was another meeting of the Trustees but their proposals to the Charity Commission to allow the Club to expand or not was discussed in private. The submission has now been made (1st August 2008) to the Charity Commission on the Option 2 proposal (additional land for the Rugby Club to increase its capacity). However, the Trustees have put forward the proposals in draft form as they are still in negotiation with the Rugby Club. The Charity Commission have to conduct legal tests on the additional benefits that may be derived from the Club over the detriments of granting the Club more charitable land. The Club wants to ensure that capacity for a 20,000 arena will be allowed in principal in the future should they need it. Meanwhile the Club is keeping its options open on three sites within 5 miles of Bath, according to Bob Calleja the CEO, should agreement not be reached.

A recent development was the Chairman of Bath City Footbal Club Geoff Todd stated that "the club has held talks with Bath Rugby over a possible ground-share at The Rec" (Bath Chronicle 21st August 2008).

External links

* [http://www.recreationgroundtrust.org.uk The Recreation Ground Trust website]
* [http://www.recreationgroundtrust.org.uk/bath_recreational_ground_trust_history.htm History of The Recreation Ground]

References


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