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‘Door still open’ for London Welsh transfer to Witney
12:30pm Wednesday 19th March 2014 in Rugby
A DIRECTOR of the company which owns Witney Community Stadium has said the door is still open to London Welsh Rugby Club.
Although planning permission for temporary stands to accommodate up to 10,000 rugby fans at the stadium has been granted, the club said last week that it will continue to use Oxford’s Kassam Stadium if promoted back to the sport’s Premiership.
London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips said the Downs Road site remained an option, but would not be a candidate for a primary venue, because it did not currently meet the standards required for inspections by the Rugby Football Union.
He added: “We have made it clear to the RFU that we do have plans for Witney.
“We will be keeping that option open while we play at Kassam. Rome was not built in a day and it is not to say that we won’t be in a position to move to Witney in three to five months’ time.”
Gavin Brown, of landowner On The Edge, said that the Witney plan could still work.
He said: “We all felt it would be the icing on the cake for Witney, which is already a fantastic town.
“Lots of local businesses have shown great interest in the plans, who would not be interested if the team stays at the Kassam. There’s nothing happening with the ground at the moment, so the door is definitely still open.”
For now, local junior football teams will continue to be allowed to use the pitch free of charge, Mr Brown added.
West Oxfordshire District Council gave On The Edge planning permission for temporary stands at the ground last month.
But Mr Phillips said London Welsh would need “millions, but not tens of millions” of pounds in support from investors in the county, if the former home of Witney Town Football Club was to be suitably developed s a rugby stadium.
The chairman of West Oxfordshire District Council’s lowlands planning sub-committee, Warwick Robinson, said: “We’re obviously disappointed by the news as we had quite hoped they would come to Witney.
“We were advised that determination needed to be rapid, because they had deadlines with the national [RFU] inspectors, when it was brought forward.”
The vice-president of the Barbarians FC and Chipping Norton resident Geoffrey Windsor-Lewis said securing the investment needed could prove problematic.
He said: “They would also have to get promoted to attract that kind of investment. I’m a supporter of London Welsh, so I hope they do.”
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