The council have not identified any major sports infrastructure projects to apply for government funding for, a senior councillor has said.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council's cabinet were tasked with working with sports clubs across the borough to submit an application to the government to the Levelling Up fund.

But the authority's cabinet member for health, wellbeing and leisure, Cllr Rebecca Bean, confirmed last week that the council had not yet put in a bid to the fund, despite the first tranche of applications closing in June and it being four months since the council motion.

She added that they had not identified any major sports and leisure projects to submit to the government for funding.

The ex-councillor who had initially proposed the motion before the last elections, Jack Cousens, said he "could think of several", noting the Camrose stadium, ice rink and many others.

But the leader of the opposition, Labour councillor Andy McCormick, who was criticised back in March for initially not supporting the motion before eventually voting in favour, said he was "heartened" by Cllr Bean's response.

'We haven't identified something'

Cllr Bean was speaking at a public meeting of the authority's cabinet on July 6, where she said that Basingstoke and Deane would be "really low down" the priority list for the fund.

She continued: "The first round of applications has closed back in mid-June and we haven't submitted anything at this point.

"That is not to say that we won't in the future but we need to be mindful of the wider context of this fund and strategically whether an application is right for sports and leisure or if it might be better placed elsewhere.

"If there is an ability to apply for funding for major projects then absolutely we should do that, but at this point we haven't identified something to do that, but that is not to say that we won't in the future."

The prospectus for the £20 million government fund states that projects can include "upgrading and crating new... sports or athletics facilities" or "new, upgraded or protected community hubs, spaces or assets (and associated green spaces)".

Cllr McCormick responded to Cllr Bean by saying: "My initial thoughts was that Basingstoke and Deane was already 'up', but that is not to say that there might be deserving cases in Basingstoke and Deane."

He added that he was "very excited" by plans put to the council by Basingstoke Town FC for a community sports hub at the site of the historic Camrose stadium, which currently lays dilapidated and empty in the hands of the club's former owners, who want to turn it into a housing estate.

Meanwhile, the club is forced to play at the over-subscribed Winklebury Complex, home of Hampshire FA and other football teams.

Additionally, there is uncertainty over the future of Basingstoke's ice rink, home of the Bison ice hockey team, which needs repairs to fix a permafrost issue.

'Don't just sit idly by'

Former councillor Jack Cousens reacted to the comments by saying: "If you don't ask then you don't get."

"Don't just sit idly by," he added. "The attitude to have is understand what is needed and to go and pitch for it.

"So what if you get a no?

"The funding from memory, you could in theory make a blank pitch - 'we want to upgrade a catalogue of sports facilities'.

"They could do that across the borough, and there are two particular sites that are significant interests of sports in the town, both the Camrose and the ice rink."

He continued to say that applications can also be made to upgrade facilities at Winklebury, Brighton Hill playing fields and the dozens of other sports facilities around the borough."

Fiery debate

The initial debate in March came to a boil when Labour councillors opposed the motion, which had support from the independent group and the Conservatives.

Councillors from the Labour group all spoke to say that the grant was not designed for bids such as the one proposed.

But Cllr Tristan Robinson, a Conservative portfolio holder who lended his support to the plan, said that councillors should not "talk our town down".

"We have major developments coming forward, and what better way to plan for the future than with landmark new sports facilities?" he said.

"To those who say it won't happen, or it cannot be done, what should we do, not try? Not jump on the opportunities that present to us?

Meanwhile Cllr Cousens assured colleagues that he had sought advice from council officers confirming it was the right fund to apply for.

He then said: "I have to say I am incredibly disappointed with my former colleagues to the point where I can pretty much almost say that your manifesto is meaningless.

"When push comes to shove and the difficult choices come, when you have the opportunity to apply for a fund, to take the chance, you’re prepared to say ‘no we’re not interested’, sit idly by and let somebody else potentially take what we could have had.

"I’m sorry but that is not acceptable, you’re here to represent your residents.

"Sport is powerful and has incredible meaning to everybody in this borough, and you are prepared to sit idly by and not do anything.

"That is disrespectful to our residents and it is frankly quite disgraceful that you would put something in writing and do another thing when it comes to the final element of doing so.

"Councillors, do not sit idly by. Be bold, be brave, be ambitious and vote for this motion."