Newbury racecourse yesterday released plans for a major redevelopment of the course, funded by the sale of three packets of land. Changes are not immediate, with most of the work expected to take place between 2014 and 2016.
Newbury Racecourse plc, which owns the site, has sold the land, known as the western central and eastern sites to property developer David Wilson Homes for £42.6m, and they will start the first phase of building 420 new houses on the western site later this year. Thankfully, the deal has been signed before the ridiculous loosening of planning laws that the Government is proposing, and so around 30% of the new homes built will be affordable social housing.
For people going to the races at Newbury, perhaps the most welcome element of the scheme will be the building of a new bridge. I’ve never found getting into the course a problem, but getting out is another matter. If the new bridge replaces the single file, traffic light controlled one over the railway down towards the start of the home straight, it could make journeys home anything up to an hour shorter.
As for the racecourse itself, the first work to take place will be to install two new car parks. One, in the centre of the course, is for use by annual members and folk buying Premier enclosure tickets, the other, along with a new entrance, is for owners and trainers.
The bulk of development seeks to improve conditions for the horses and stable staff, with a new accommodation block for the latter, and a new saddling area for the animals. As for the bulk or racegoers, you and me included, the crumbs we get in this major scheme are minimal; better viewing around a new parade ring.
The work announced thus far is expected to cost around £12m and other than the in course car park will only go ahead if funding is in place. Pardon me, but how can in not be if the course management are receiving £42m for the land they are selling? And just as much to the point, what will they do with the remaining £30m?
The directors of Newbury say they want to make the site profitable all year round, so one might expect them to provide some modern conference venue that has the potential to generate income at any time when racing isn’t taking place, but there’s no hint of that as yet.
Stephen Higgins, one of the managing directors of the course said, “The housing development and the heritage of the horseracing will be intrinsically linked. This is the right time to be setting out the future of the racecourse.”
One thing we might hope for is that the street names on the development recognise some of the equine heroes of racing at Newbury. Lockinge Stakes winners Pall Mall, Brigadier Gerard, Canford Cliffs, and Frankel would do for starters, though there might be problems with the first of those; it’s been used somewhere else I believe.
Who would you add?