Dewsbury Rams’ future is one step closer to being secured after councillors reluctantly backed planning proposals for a major development near its stadium.
A masterplan was submitted to Kirklees Council’s cabinet by leaseholders Stirling Investment Properties LLP and Scotfield Ltd to build more than 200 homes on Council-owned land next the Rams’ Tetley’s Stadium on Owl Lane.
After a tense meeting, cabinet members agreed to back the proposals, but admitted their hands were tied due to a previous council agreement.
Now the developers have permission to submit a full planning application for the scheme, which would include a new training pitch and car park for the club - and a cash sum from developers for the Rams.
Chairman of Dewsbury Rams Mark Sawyer said: “As part of the agreement, we would get a new car park and training pitch which will be funded by the developers, but we would also receive a substantial amount of money from them to reinvest in the club.
“Part of the sum would go towards running costs, but the majority will be put into a Dewsbury Rams trust, which will help fund our youth set-up and community projects.
“We can’t put an exact figure on it just yet, but I can probably say it would be a substantial six-figure sum, and should secure the club’s future for years to come.”
The land was subject to a tripartite agreement between the club, Kirklees Council and the developers in 2008, with the Rams given use of the land on a 999-year lease. As landowners, Kirklees Council had to approve the plan before a planning application was submitted.
The 25-acre site backs on to the Rams’ stadium, Shaw Cross Business Park and a reclaimed former landfill site.
During Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Coun David Sheard, deputy leader of Kirklees Council, recommended that councillors approve the proposal, but said cabinet had little choice in the matter.
He added: “This is green belt land but if we failed to agree to the plan, we could be open to future claims for compensation. Because the development criteria meet that set by the previous cabinet in 2008, even though we do not endorse the plan, we have no choice but to agree.”
Coun Kath Pinnock said at the meeting: “The way this agreement was made, it feels like the developers have us over a barrel.
“I am not against helping the Dewsbury Rams, but I would have preferred to have looked at other options than building houses on greenbelt land without proper consultation.”
Chris Battye from the Dewsbury Rams Development Supporters Group, said: “If the land can be sold for development, it should help secure the club’s future.
“With games areas, there is scope for the development to not only benefit the club, but the whole of Shaw Cross, which has been crying out for recreation areas. I think most Rams fans would back this project.”