BASINGSTOKE Town fan James Royston has sent this open letter to the twelve councillors that will decide the fate of the Camrose stadium tonight...

I am writing in regards to The Camrose Planning decision which is due for your final review next week, as a resident of South Ham and a Basingstoke Town Football Club season ticket holder – you’ll no doubt understand I have more than a little vested interest in this matter.

I’ve attended meetings, I’ve written letters and I’ve even had the opportunity to talk with Maria Miller on this topic, but as we tick towards the final day of reckoning I don’t want my voice to be left unheard.

I don’t know if any of you personally have a strong connection to football or indeed sport in general in the town but I hope you’re able to recognise its significance to our community as a whole. Basingstoke Town Football Club means an awful lot to a very many people, I’m sure it goes without saying but it’s important to understand when thinking about the club it is so much more than the eleven players taking to the field on a Saturday afternoon – it’s; the successful academy, the many age-group teams, the re-established women’s and girl’s teams, the network and togetherness of hundreds of supports like myself. I truly believe now the club is free of Mr Razzak and instead run by and for the benefit of the community it can be a transformational force for good in our town, sadly though, without a permanent home that new dawn of opportunity will be lost.

As I’ve said, I don’t and won’t pretend to know the nuance of planning matters, but looking in the simplest terms I’m not sure how anyone could see the result of this planning application as anything other than either, in rejecting it – supporting and preserving a community asset for future generations. Or in accepting the application, ultimately bowing down to the final will of a multimillionaire who many would characterise as unscrupulous at best.

Now I’m well aware that some of you may read this and think my impassioned plea falls closer to hysteria than reality and may point to the clubs return to Winklebury along with further mitigation funding to be released. It is absolutely vital to understand that, first and foremost, it should not be acceptable for our town to lose a sporting facility especially with the ambitious plans of Horizon 2050 in mind. Furthermore the Winklebury FA facility can only ever be a temporary home for the club, it’s already over-subscribed so stifles the growth of the club and opportunities for other minor teams in the area. The Winklebury FA facility is also unsuitable for expansion as and when Basingstoke Town progress through the league pyramid. Basingstoke Town Football Club needs a permanent home that is either the Camrose or an absolute equivalent of it and I don’t believe there is currently full provision for that in the mitigation.

I’m also realistic enough to know that some of you may have got this far and alas don’t really have much interest in the sports facilities of our community or indeed may see it simply as a necessary sacrifice for the development of that area. Obviously key to the development of the area is Brighton Hill roundabout, which I think everyone can agree does need improvement. However, and this is where I speak purely as a South Ham resident, I cannot see sense in the plans for the roundabout or how a significant amount of new housing would alleviate the issues it currently suffers. That is of course before we consider the additional noise and pollution for those living around Mansfield Road and the further overspill of traffic in other areas as drivers look to find rat runs. It seems inevitable to me that the proposed development will only increase traffic and associated issues in the area.

I’ll close by simply saying there are over one hundred thousand people in our town and I truly believe if you vote to approve this planning application you will be enriching the life of one person to the detriment of everyone else in our community. Please reject this application.

James Royston, South Ham