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Rugby club awaits Darlington stadium decision
A DECISION on a key aspect of a multi-million pound scheme to transform a mothballed North-East stadium into a rugby academy could be made as early as next month.
Mowden Park Rugby Club last week announced plans to take over the 25,000-seater Northern Echo Arena, former home of Darlington Football Club.
The proposals include buying council-owned land to the east of the arena, to develop six extra rugby pitches to accommodate the club’s senior, junior and ladies’ sides.
Talks took place yesterday between Darlington Borough Council officials and representatives of the rugby club.
Council leader Bill Dixon has welcomed the plans, which are now likely to be discussed by cabinet next month.
He said: “This looks like the best result we are going to get to see the land used for the purpose it was intended, which is sport.
“It is an exciting venture, which I think the town will welcome.
“They have taken everybody by surprise with the speed at which they have moved on this.”
Mowden is looking to consolidate, on one site, all of its rugby activities, which are currently spread across a number of venues, including school playing fields.
Last week, the club reached an agreement to buy the arena, which is owned by businessmen Philip Scott and Graham Sizer.
Mowden chairman John Widdall said yesterday’s talks with the council were “very positive”.
He rejected rumours the stadium could be either totally or partially demolished as part of the development.
Various income sources have been discussed, including the staging of international rugby matches and music concerts.
A covenant on the land the stadium is built on stipulates that the council would receive the bulk of any profit if it is sold for non-sporting use.
Coun Dixon said the council would insist on a similar condition for the agricultural land currently being discussed, should it ever be sold on for development in the future.
He said: “When selling land for sporting purposes, we would look to get a reasonable price, but we would also want the covenant to ensure that the taxpayer does not lose out.”
Mowden has been looking to move away from its Yiewsley Drive ground since the late 1990s and developer Bellway Homes has plans to build 67 houses on the site.
The Northern Echo arena has been empty since Darlington FC moved out earlier this year, after the fans’ group that saved the club decided running costs to stay there would be too high.
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