Today the Gazette is launching a campaign to bring Basingstoke’s football club back home to the Camrose after unearthing a historic document which states its former home should remain a football ground until 2053.

For years, rumours of a covenant put in place to protect the ground from development were rubbished by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. 

In 2017, the authority told a public meeting there was ‘no evidence’ of a covenant and said its legal team had not been able to find it.

Well last week, the Gazette did. And in black and white, the historic document clearly states the grounds must remain as a sporting facility until 2053. 

This has now become a David and Goliath fight between a community-run club, a multimillion pound landowner and a wealthy council.

Basingstoke Gazette: Lord Camrose signed a covenant in 1953 to protect the Camrose from developmentLord Camrose signed a covenant in 1953 to protect the Camrose from development
Basingstoke Gazette: Cllr Ken Rhatigan and Cllr Simon Bound, of Basingstoke and Deane Borough CouncilCllr Ken Rhatigan and Cllr Simon Bound, of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council
Lord Camrose would be turning in his grave to know that his wishes for the ground to be safeguarded as a football pitch have been disrespected, with the club evicted and forced to play 19 miles down the road without a home. 

Whether it was a deliberate cover-up is yet to be seen but one thing is clear: the council can no longer deny the existence of a covenant. 

With this in mind, we have today launched an online petition calling for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Mr Razzak to act in the interests of the public and to uphold the wishes of Lord Camrose. 

We are asking that the Winchester Road ground is given back to the club or a like-for-like stadium is built to replace it. 
Basingstoke Gazette: Rafi Razzak, pictured left Rafi Razzak, pictured left
The move to Winklebury is not the answer. It is bad value for residents as it means the town will lose a sporting facility. It also limits what the club can achieve in terms of which leagues it will be eligible to play in. 

There is no legitimate need for 89 homes to be squeezed on this historic piece of land - it is nothing more than corporate greed.

Councillors must reject planning proposals to build 89 homes on the Camrose or this decision will forever be a stain on its legacy. 

Basingstoke is a town already well-served in the department of housing developments, which in fairness is a credit to the authority - and rightly so, given the national housing shortage. 

But it must not come at the expense of facilities for its residents. 

Does the council want to be known for turning the town into a gigantic housing estate while robbing future generations of the chance to grow up with a football ground to be proud of? 

It is now up to councillors and Mr Razzak about how they wish to proceed but we warn them to make the right decision: history will judge you on what you do next. And we will be there to report it.

Basingstoke Gazette: