Isle of Wight Councillor for Newport North – Matt Price – is seeking public feedback on a new proposal to rehome the County Town’s football club at a rejuvenated Seaclose Park, with expanded boundaries.
Under the scheme, Newport Football Club (FC) would return to the parish of Newport (rather than move to its approved new ground at the Racecourse), as part of a series of recreational improvements to Seaclose aimed at encouraging greater community use of the park.
Upgrade skatepark with new ramps and pump track
The other significant project would be a major upgrade to Seaclose’s skatepark facility, to include new ramps and a pump track, with dips, bumps and jumps (instead of just ramps) for riders on any set of wheels to skate, cycle or roll around.
More widely, football and cricket pitches would be marked out in other areas of the park. There would also be new removable sports equipment introduced and walking and cycling routes upgraded.
New football ground
The centrepiece of the plan is a new football ground with a grandstand, clubhouse, floodlights and the latest all-weather pitch – in the south-western corner of the park – that would be available for organised community use, while providing a new home for Newport FC who are currently hosted by footballing rivals East Cowes Vics.
Matt said the Seaclose idea came about during previous discussions about the relocation of Newport FC as part of plans for a retail park at the club’s former home at St George’s Park. Although the developer has permission for a new ground at the Racecourse at Whippingham, Matt believes the Seaclose alternative should be revisited as it had the potential to provide much wider community benefit.
Back to the heart of the town
Crucially for Newport FC fans, the new location – just a short, walk or cycle from the town centre – would bring the 130-year-old club much closer to the heart of Newport than the consented Racecourse scheme.
The new ground – to the south of the planning offices and to the west of the bowling green – would continue to be owned by the Isle of Wight Council. Newport FC would pay a peppercorn rent (as anchor tenant), with a condition that other community uses – including women’s football, youth football and also sport for those with disabilities – should take place at the venue.
Price: An excellent recreational facility for wider community us
Speaking after a recent meeting of Newport and Carisbrooke Community Council – at which he mentioned the plans – Matt said,
“Having seen off proposals to build 40 houses on land at Seaclose Park, it is right that we now look at how sports and recreational provision can be enhanced in this location. We have the opportunity to create both a top-class new home for Newport FC and also an excellent recreational facility for wider community use, along with a significantly improved skatepark (incorporating a pump track), similar to what has been put forward in Freshwater. It is well worth exploring, particularly as we need more outdoor facilities for people of all ages to enjoy.
“As local member, I can see that providing a new football ground in either location would work, but the Seaclose alternative ensures that Newport FC remains in Newport, while also being much more accessible and offering greater immediate community benefits.
“The Seaclose option incorporates all the facilities included in the Racecourse plan – and more – so ultimately we have to decide which of these locations would be best.
“I am also keen to see the area defined as Seaclose Park expanded to incorporate (1) Medina Arboretum and (2) under-utilised sports pitches at Medina College, along with areas of open space alongside these. This would reflect the wider public use of this area as a whole.”
Welcomed by supporters
The Seaclose alternative for Newport FC is already supported, in principle, by the Newport FC Supporters Trust, while Matt said initial feedback from other elected members in the wider Newport and Carisbrooke parish area had also been positive.
However, Matt said any new facility must not adversely affect the future of the Isle of Wight Festival or other established uses at Seaclose Park. He added,
“The area proposed for the new football ground sits to the south of the main space used for hosting the Festival, but I recognise it is used for providing backstage support. However, I believe this proposal can actually enhance and complement the festival site by providing additional hard-standing backstage hospitality and accommodation. The scheme has been worked up with the festival’s requirements in mind.
“I am keen to hear the views of residents, sports clubs and community organisations – and fellow elected members – before reaching a final view. In particular, it is important that any enhancements to Seaclose Park complement of all the existing uses of this wider area, given how much this recreational space is already enjoyed by many people locally. I do think that there is a real opportunity here to reinvigorate Seaclose as a recreational and sporting hub, along with a clubhouse that could also serve as a much-needed community centre for Fairlee.
“This scheme could also complement – and be a catalyst for – the ambitions of the wider Newport Harbour Masterplan.”
Westhorpe: I welcome Cllr Price’s initiative
Peter Westhorpe, Secretary of Newport FC Supporters’ Trust, added,
“A move to Whippingham would still give us a high-quality new ground, but I believe supporters would prefer this closer to the town centre if this could be delivered swiftly.
“Moving to Seaclose and bringing the club back into Newport would have its attractions for supporters and as such I welcome Cllr Price’s initiative.”
Wake: Happy to keep Seaclose alternative on the table for now
Tony Wake, chairman of Newport Football Club and director of South Coast Leisure said,
“The Racecourse site is where we have planned to relocate the club and we expect to make a start on the build towards the end of the summer but, time permitting, I am happy to keep the Seaclose alternative on the table for now should the Council and the public agree it is better option.”
A range of local community organisations and educational providers have already expressed an interest in using the new football ground facility.
News shared by Matthew Price, in his own words. Ed