• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Oxford Stadium boss Kevin Boothby backs campaign to save Coventry Stadium

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 28, 2022

Oxford Stadium has thrown its support behind campaigners fighting to save historic Coventry Stadium, which is under threat of being lost to its community in favour of housing.

Opened in 1928, the Brandon venue was home to speedway, greyhound racing and stock car racing for 88 years before it closed suddenly when owners Brandon Estates did not renew an operations lease which expired in 2016.

Since its closure, the stadium has been unused and has been broken into by arsonists.

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Despite overwhelming opposition from residents and motorsport enthusiasts globally, Rugby Borough Council will next month consider an application to replace the stadium with 124 houses and a 3G football pitch.

The local planning officer has recommend the application for approval at the next planning committee meeting on Wednesday, October 12.

Oxford Stadium MD Kevin Boothby, who reopened the Cowley venue in April 2022 after securing a 10-year lease from owners Galliard Homes with support from Oxford City Council, said approving Brandon Estates’ plans would be scandalous.

“Replacing almost a century of sporting excellence and discarding much-loved clubs and events in favour of housing plans is a heart-breaking thought,” said Mr Boothby.

“Coventry Stadium has a reputation of being one of the best speedway and stock car venues in the world, with a successful financial model in operation until its closure.

“What we have achieved at Oxford Stadium underlines that regeneration campaigns can be completed. At a time where demand for community provisions has never been greater, Coventry Stadium can deliver a true multi-purpose hub for individuals of all backgrounds, ages and interests.

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“I struggle to believe anyone can defend replacing a site of significant historic importance with huge potential for housing and a ‘tick-box exercise’ 3G football pitch.

“I plead with Rugby Borough Council to make the right decision on October 12. A decision which can mark the first step in restoring this once magnificent and proud venue to its former glory just like we achieved at Oxford.”

Eight-times British League champions Coventry Bees raced at Brandon for 87 consecutive seasons – excluding World War II – with the club home to household names including Ole Olsen, Hans Nielsen and Greg Hancock.

The 12,500 capacity venue also hosted World Stock Car Championship Finals, Speedway Grand Prix and World Cup Finals, British Finals, Commonwealth and Overseas Finals plus prestigious greyhound racing events including the Trainers’ Championship.

Jeff Davies of Save Coventry Speedway and Stox campaign remains optimistic the planning officer’s recommendation to approve Brandon Estates’ application can be rejected.

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“Oxford is a real-life example of what can be achieved with the appropriate support and knowledge of the local authority, and I was thoroughly impressed when visiting earlier this year,” said Jeff.

“Support from Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, and Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery, was significant in Oxford’s reopening.

“Sadly, we have not experienced the same levels of engagement and support from Rugby Borough Council thus far. It is disappointing our local planning officer is of the opinion Coventry Stadium does not hold the same historic link to the local area as Oxford.

“It would be difficult to accept the possible loss of our great stadium in these circumstances, however we remain optimistic in our fight to save Coventry Stadium and thank everyone at Oxford for their continued support.”

Further information about the Save Coventry Speedway and Stox campaign is available online via WELCOME – Save Coventry Speedway.

Rugby Borough Council’s next planning committee meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 12, at Town Hall, Rugby.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF