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Sittingbourne Rugby Club bids to build clubhouse and pitches at Wises Lane in Borden, Sittingbourne

A rugby club’s bid to move into its first permanent home is being opposed by neighbours who say there are enough sports facilities in the area.

Sittingbourne Rugby Club, in partnership with Quinn Estates, wants to build a new HQ with two state-of-the-art pitches on fields off Wises Lane, Borden.

Sittingbourne Rugby Club say the clubhouse will allow their teams to continue to expand. Picture: Quinn Estates
Sittingbourne Rugby Club say the clubhouse will allow their teams to continue to expand. Picture: Quinn Estates

It would form part of the developer’s controversial 675-home development there, Applegate Park.

Members of Borden Wildlife Group recently picketed the construction site, saying work threatened the habitat of local skylarks.

The plans were approved in August 2021 following a high-profile planning appeal.

The chairman of Sittingbourne Rugby Club, Roger Down, said the move away from the team’s current base, at Gore Court Cricket Club’s base at The Grove, in Key Street, would help secure its future and allow the club to grow.

A statement from the club said: “Sittingbourne RUFC is currently located at Gore Court where it shares sporting and social/clubhouse facilities with both hockey and cricket clubs.

“This is far from ideal as the facilities are not able to accommodate the size of our playing section, especially juniors. Also, the playing areas of the club are not available to us at all times due to the maintenance and use of the cricket pitch. The club has no security of tenure at Gore Court.

“This development will provide our first ever permanent home and enable the club to meet its current needs and invest in its future growth. It also affords us the control of our own destiny rather than being dependant on continued compromise to meet the needs of other stakeholders.”

The club added: “One of our greatest concerns is that of access to all. Gore Court has no facilities for access to or use by physically disadvantaged people, meaning that a number of our members and their family members are unable to join with us in either rugby or social activities. This development would enable us to welcome all people to use our club.”

The two pitches will be Rugby Footbal Union standard. Picture: Quinn Estates.
The two pitches will be Rugby Footbal Union standard. Picture: Quinn Estates.

The plans, for fields measuring 3.76 hectares, include a two-storey rugby club building with six changing rooms and physiotherapy space, plus a social area with bar and kitchen that opens out onto a balcony which overlooks the pitches.

To accommodate match day attendance of at least 107 people, including officials, teams and spectators, 65 car spaces have been included in the proposals.

Two state-of-the-art sports pitches that meet both Sports England and Rugby Football Unions standards.

Access would be off Cryalls Lane.

Swale council has received 52 letters about the application, 17 of which objected to the plans, including Borden Parish Council.

The authority said the clubhouse design was not in keeping with the rural setting, developers had underestimate the number of people who would be travelling to the facility on matchdays, and feared wayward balls would end up in a nearby nature reserve.

One commenter pointed to Swale council’s own assessment of sports facilities which has concluded there was “a surplus of senior and mini rugby pitches” in the borough.

Christine Brown, who lives in Wises Lane, claims there are “sufficient and adequate” sports facilities in the area and the expense to wildlife of the new clubhouse and pitches “would be devastating.”

She branded the scheme a “white elephant”, adding: “The football and cricket ground in Wises Lane, the Forge in The Street and the village hall in School Lane are quite enough for the area.”

Borden resident Gaynor Aspin said she was an “avid rugby supporter” but the plan was “not essential or a priority asset”.

She wrote: “There will be noise and environmental pollution from the rugby as well as multiple and varied social events late into the night/early morning.

“Rugby club supporters seem to think that this is Sittingbourne. It is not - this is the village of Borden surrounded by very narrow lanes which are already overly congested with heavy traffic and very large HGVs and subject to flooding and road damage.

“Far from bringing the community together the proposed rugby club is highly divisive.”

Plans for the entrance of the rugby clubhouse. Picture: Quinn Estates.
Plans for the entrance of the rugby clubhouse. Picture: Quinn Estates.

Paul Brown added: “Sittingbourne already has a good rugby facility located no more than one mile from the proposed development site.

“Why is it necessary to encroach upon the established Borden Nature Reserve and drive away the remainder of Borden’s wildlife?”

However, many wrote in support of the plans, including Leonard Opundo, who said: “This will help with developing rugby as a sport in our young upcoming stars.

“For the older players - they will have a place to share their experiences with upcoming players without restrictions. I pray the pitches are set up.”

Wilma Down added: “After 45 years it would be a huge boost [for Sittingbourne Rugby Club] to finally have their own premises, and be able to offer those facilities to other groups within the community who need them.”

To view the plans in full click here and use the reference number 23/500263/REM.

They are set to be determined by Thursday, August 17.

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