Member Update – Macclesfield Rugby Club

Dear Member                                            9th August 2017

We wanted to provide an update regarding progress of the “full planning” application for the development of the Priory Park site (reference no 16/6237M) submitted to Cheshire East Council in December 2016.  The application was registered in January 2017 with a targeted Planning Committee date of the April 2017.


What’s going on behind the scenes at Priory Park this summer

Whilst Macclesfield Blues enjoyed unprecedented success on the field last season, behind the scenes at Priory Park things have also been moving on steadily too. Success on the field and promotion means increased costs, and the Club’s management is only too well aware that this extra expense has somehow to be paid for. In the back offices over the summer Club Officials have been quietly working away trying to rustle up new sponsorship deals and oversee the planning developments at the ground. So what’s happening at the moment? How the sponsorship search doing? Is planning approval for the new Clubhouse any nearer completion? The man with all the answers is Business Director, Jonathan Marsh. Here’s what he had to say.


Minutes of EGM

Minutes of an Extraordinary General Meeting held at

Macclesfield Rugby Club

12th January 2016.

19.30 – 22.15

1. Purpose – an EGM, called in accordance with the club rules, was held in relation to the proposals to develop the land and clubhouse at the Priory Road site. The specific motion for consideration

was:

To approve the proposals presented (at the meeting) for public consultation and submission of a planning application.

2. Attendance:

2.1. Management and advisory team – a team of six attended to present the proposals and answer questions from members. They were: Peter Harper (chairman, Macclesfield RFC), Tim Peakman (secretary, Macclesfield RFC), Stuart Lever (Club Design), Rawdon Gasgoigne (Emery Planning and member of Macclesfield RFC), Gary Hardy (MD, Northern Division, Jones Homes), Kerren Phillips (planning manager, Jones Homes)

2.2. Voting members – 104 members with full voting rights attended (see appendix 1). Club members without voting rights (such as family members) also attended and were allowed by the chairman to ask questions.

2.3. Apologies – apologies were received and noted from a number of members (see appendix 2)

3. Introduction – Peter Harper. PH welcomed members and detailed the purpose of the meeting. He gave an overview of the agenda and set some ground rules for the conduct of the discussions which were agreed by all present. He emphasised:

  • The meeting was an important stage of a long process that began with the mandate given to the executive committee in 2013 to explore options to sell land at Priory Park and re-develop the clubhouse.
  • He briefly described the process followed and the due diligence completed to ensure the best outcome for the rugby club.
  • The vote at the meeting was on the proposal to sell some land and re-develop the club and pitches at the Priory Park site – it was not to scrutinise the fine detail of the design of the clubhouse which can be altered to some degree if planning permission is obtained.

  • If the vote was passed, we were committed to proceeding with Jones Homes to go to public consultation on the plans and the submission of a full planning application to Cheshire East Council.

4. Background – in order to ensure all members were fully informed of the background and detail of the proposals, presentations were made by several of the management and advisory team:

4.1. Background and need – Tim Peakman

TP gave a presentation outlining the rationale for the club development. The main points were:

  • Development of the club in a sustainable way was the main theme of the strategy developed in 2013/14.
  • The proposal would make large and important contributions to the three elements identified to deliver the strategy (integrate and enhance the rugby, increase external revenue streams, re-build the social calendar).
  • Our ability to deliver this strategy to any extent is limited by our current position. Net revenue is essentially zero and income and expenditure are hard to predict accurately from one year to the next.
  • The club has limited capacity to affect this through its two major income sources – membership fees and sponsorship. It is currently unable to exploit the facilities for revenue generation to any extent.
  • There is a number of priority projects that are currently unaffordable – further, one large, unexpected bill would place the club in a financially-difficult position.
  • A summary of the facilities in the proposals was presented.
  • It was emphasised that no residual working capital from the sale of the land would be available after completion of the development.
  • Conservative and plausible revenue forecasts were presented showing incremental income generated from proper use of the facilities. This would reverse the “hand- to-mouth” existence currently experienced and ensure sufficient contingency to balance the increase in costs associated with the proposals.
  • The importance of the proposals to the long-term sustainability of the rugby club was emphasised. Specific contributions to delivering the three elements of the club strategy were presented.
  • The one-off nature of the opportunity, and the fact that we would not incur huge debt or be beholden to a single large investor, was emphasised.
  • The proposal has the full backing of the club executive committee.

4.2. Technical design – Stuart Lever

SL presented detail of the development design and the design process. The main points were:

  • The current design is the product of several iterations and includes pre-application discussions with Cheshire East Council.
  • In selling green-belt land for sports development, it is necessary to demonstrate no net loss of pitches. This proposal retains the four, full-sized adult pitches but includes four additional small pitches for the minis and juniors.
  • The proposals have been sent to the RFU for support – they will then be forwarded to Sport England as a statutory consultee.
  • SL emphasised that the fine detail of the clubhouse design could be modified in consultation with members.

4.3. Detail, requirements and constraints of the planning application and process – Rawdon Gasgoigne

RG gave an overview of the planning process and its limitations:

  • Re-location of the club to a completely new location was not an option (even if thought desirable by members) as searches and discussions with, amongst others, Cheshire East, had not yielded a viable alternative.

  • The executive management and advisory team have produced a hybrid application consisting of improvement to the site for the rugby club and a mixed-housing development.

  • The planning process for green belt land is difficult but RG felt that there was a window of opportunity. Elements of the club development plan as presented do fit within the scope of green belt development without the housing component – however, the club does not have the cash reserves or in-house expertise to undertake this project independently.

  • If housing is proposed as part of the development, it is necessary to demonstrate that funds generated will be used for the development of the club and that the two elements are intrinsically linked.

  • The plans have been discussed with Cheshire East Council and RG believes a strong case can be made for their approval.

4.4. Involvement of the building contractor – Kerren Phillips

KP briefly described the involvement of Jones Homes in the process:

  • Jones Homes’ role to date has been one of facilitation of the process.
  • KP emphasised that there is still a long way to go before approval is obtained from the council. She felt that a lot of political, community and council engagement had been already done and that this would help the process as it progresses.
  • Jones Homes will make a profit from the sale of the houses built on the land but that this will be in line with appropriate legislation for this type of development.

5. Questions from members – the floor was opened by the chairman for questions and discussion. (Appendix 3)

6. Vote – a vote on the motion detailed in section 1 was taken:

Those in favour of the motion: 90

Those opposed to the motion: 9

Those abstaining from voting: 5

Total 104

Accordingly, the motion was passed.

There being no other business, the chairman thanked all of the members for attending and for the frank discussion. He stated that the plans would be made available on the website for scrutiny but, to avoid circumventing the planning process, this would be after the public consultation. He declared the meeting closed at 22.15.

Appendix 1 : Full voting members in attendance

Geoff Allen Peter Harwick Matt O’Regan
David Armstrong Giles Heagerty Joe Palmer
Lewis Barker Josh Hearn Ryan Parkinson
Francis Barker Helen Holden Derek Parry
Ruth Barlow David Holden Tim Peakman
Ken Bentley Jeremy Howarth Wilfred Potts
Brendan Berry Paul Jakubowski Neil Ravenscroft
James Board Bob Jenner Nik Richardson
Peter Board Steve Jennings Ray Richardson
Hayden Bowen Barry Jones Bill Roberts
Elliott Brierley Ben Jones John Robinson
John Brown Chris Jones Billy Robinson
Martin Brown David Jones Terry Robson
Elden Burke Michael Jones James Sharp
Tony Close Colin Joyce Albert Simpson
Matthew Coleridge Mike Keeling David Smetham
Rick Connor Caroline Keeling Max Smith
Bob Cooke Martin Kent Bernard Smith
Jim Curtis Matt King Iain Taylor
Barry Day Clive Kirkham Paul Underhill
Simon Dempsey John Knight Charlie Venables
Derek Laidlaw Jason Walker Keith Dobson
Tom Eaton Harrison Lewis Anthony Walker
Alun Evans David Mair Derek Way
Brian Fawcett Tom Mantell John Webster
Colin Finlayson David Marwick John Weston
Mike Finnemore Rhodri Mayor Peter White
Joshua Fowles Colin McCormick David Wilkinson
Malcom Fox Elliot Millar-Mills Nicholas Winterton
Steven Fry Ross Mitchell Ian Wooldridge
Marshall Gadd Will Montgomery Peter Ord
Roger Hadwin Sam Moss Peter Harper
Charlie Halle Greg Newton Matthew Harding
Clive Hammond John Noel Richard Oldham

Appendix 2 : Apologies received.

Jeremy Bostock Reg Davenport Brian Clarke
Sarah Davies Nick Hynes Nick Mannion
Robert Oliver David Rutley MP John Wright

Appendix 3 – questions and discussion from members.

The questions or comments in this appendix are presented in the order they were made and consequently there is some repetition. To this end, given the importance of the discussion and the need to record the views of all members, brevity is sacrificed for accuracy and completeness. Each question or comment is listed, followed by the response from the appropriate members of the management and advisory team.

Q.1 Member 1
Why is no working capital being generated from the sale of the land?
(RG) Any consent granted for housing on the site would be an ‘exceptional’ permission and the normal approach to profit from any development does not apply. A comparable circumstance could be enabling development related to listed buildings where a gross profit of 15-20% could result from such a development. However, because of the green belt location and the requirement to ensure all revenue goes towards club development, revenue will broadly equal the expenditure required to complete the programme. If the scale of the proposed development is reduced (with the aim of retaining some cash reserve), the scale of the housing development would be expected to be reduced accordingly by the planning authorities to minimise the impact on the green belt

Q.2 Member 2
i) M2 commented he didn’t like the design with the clubhouse at the end of the main pitch and the reduced seating area. He strongly felt that there were very few clubs who were successful with this configuration and that the clubhouse should be on the side of the pitch. He asked if we could reduce the number of pitches to accommodate relocation of the clubhouse as he was certain we will lose revenue.
ii) He also commented that he felt we were not being ambitious enough citing Exeter Chiefs as a template for success.
i) (SL) Club Planning have developed a large number of facilities in either configuration. Its current proposed location will also act as a central hub for all the pitches. There is a stand proposed on halfway in the design and it would be possible to add some additional facilities such as a temporary bar. SL referred M2 to the opening comments where it was emphasised that we could not reduce the number of pitches.
PH commented that he respected M2’s view but that he disagreed and cited a number of clubs with this arrangement. He also noted he is happy to view rugby “end on”.
A member commented that there is a number of local clubs with this configuration and they were very successful (e.g. Fylde, Sedgely Park, Bowden)

Q.3 Member 3
What due diligence has been done on the building contractors?
PH described how the club had spoken to a number of potential developers but only Jones Homes had actually come forward with an offer.

Q.4 Member 4
M4 commended the proposals. He asked how we will make sure we maximise our revenue from the new assets.
PH described the recent appointment of a Business Development Director – this is an individual with a great deal of experience in this area – and it will be his job to ensure this happens. If this is so successful that additional staff are required, we will review this at the time. PH also made reference to the proposed rugby academy that will generate substantial income for the club.

Q.5 Member 5
i) M5 also commented he didn’t like the proposed configuration of pitch and clubhouse.
ii) Why could we not generate a working capital fund?
iii) With regards to the artificial pitch – was it 3G or 4G, how much will it cost, how long will it last and how much will it cost to replace?
ii) the response to Q1 was re-stated. RG also emphasised that we won’t get permission in the absence of a club development plan which must be proportional to costs. GH commented that if we reduce costs, the council will reduce the number of houses to match which, at some point, becomes unattractive to the developer.
iii) (SL) The pitch is 3G – some companies market their products as 4G or 5G but the proposed 3G rubber crumb, infilled, long pile carpet is the only one recognised by the RFU and FIFA (being IRB 22 compliant and FIFA2* accredited). Initial installation costs about £630,000 with multiple layers underneath the carpet layer. The carpet itself would be expected to last about 10-15 years (with appropriate maintenance which is included in the business plan). Our current Astroturf facility is an older fibrillated carpet design whereas the new pitches are monofilament and degrade less quickly. When replacement is required only the rubber crumb layer and the carpet need renewal – accordingly a sinking fund of ~£20K per year should be included in the business plan.

Q.6 Member 6
Have indoor facilities been looked at?
RG responded that had been briefly considered but were unaffordable and such a large construction would be unlikely to obtain planning permission.

Q.7 Member 7
Will the main pitch be floodlit?
SL – yes.

Q.8 Member 8
Will the gym be let for outside members?
TP – yes and small numbers have been included in the feasibility forecasts albeit priority use and times will be for members and players.

Q.9 Member 9
M9 commented that he strongly supported the proposals – he asked how we would develop membership schemes to try to reverse the general decline in playing numbers.
PH responded that this was an important, on-going part of the club strategy but also that the standard of the facilities proposed is likely to help us attract and retain players.

Q.10 Member 10
M10 commented that he had been heavily involved in this project from its outset and emphasised to the meeting the amount of thought and work involved to date. He highlighted the appeal of the site and the proposal not just to the rugby club but to the town and the surrounding area. He congratulated the team involved in the work to date. He also stated his support for the developer as a credible organisation of sufficient size but also recognised their support for the rugby club over many seasons.
i) Will the number of car parking spaces be retained or increased?
ii) Will the business of the site deter potential buyers of the new houses?
i) RG – We will be arguing on the application that there is no net loss of parking spaces but this would also have to be balanced against the Council’s aim of meeting sustainability objectives and reducing the reliance on cars as the only means of getting to the ground. Consequently they would not agree to unlimited parking. PH – we would also support discussions with Fallibroome school to allow access to the car park at pick up and drop off times.
ii) SL – unlikely because the plan represents several iterations and there is now a larger stand-off between the houses and the pitches.

Q.11 Member 11
M11, as a member of the gate team, asked that thought be given to controlling access to the ground.
PH – this will be done.

Q.12 Member 12
M12 asked if he could see the business plan and possibly involve others to do a risk assessment.
PH assured him that the business plan had been properly developed but welcomed the offer of help as the document develops over the course of this year.

Q.13 Member 13
M13 noted that problems can occur as personnel on management teams change over time and that this may affect sustainability. He asked, given the revenue potential of the 3G pitch, why don’t Jones Homes put a second pitch in?
PH – there is not the demand for two pitches at the moment (and that maintenance and sinking fund costs would then outweigh revenue).

Q.14 Member 14
What working capital will there be during the development and what will be the sequence?
RG – the scheme as drafted states that we will retain the existing clubhouse during the building works. The 3G pitch can be laid in the off season well away from the other adult pitches. It is a requirement of the planning process that the facilities are in place before the development of the housing begins or as set out in a phasing agreement that will be put in place through the planning process.

Q.15 Member 15
M15 asked about the liabilities relating to the roads and what part of the access road is ours?
GH – only the part on the club land is ours – the remainder will be adopted.

Q.16 Member 16
i) Will the existing Astroturf be floodlit after renovation?
ii) Are there any other layout options?
i) RG – no because of the proximity to the new houses.
ii) RG – not really, the plans are the result of about 18 months’ discussion and this is the best, and probably only, option that accommodates all the facilities as shown and which delivers a housing layout that is both functionally and financially viable. SL agreed to examine the feasibility of re-locating the clubhouse though he was not optimistic.

Q.17 Member 17
M17 noted that success will depend on on-going revenues and highlighted the risk of optimism bias in the business plan. He would like to be comfortable that this was not the case.
PH noted his comment.
GH said that a final and fully detailed business plan will be required with the full planning application – Jones Homes will scrutinise this very carefully.

Q.18 Member 18
M18 also noted his preference for the clubhouse to be positioned on the halfway line.
PH referred him to SL’s answer given to Q16.

Q.19 Member 19
M19 stated that, following the presentations, he had much greater faith in the proposal and the management team. He asked whether members could see an executive summary of the final business plan document.
PH stated that he would investigate if this could be done and still retain confidentiality.

Q.20 Member 2
M2 repeated his concern about sustainability highlighting that we would need to save about £40,000 a year. He noted that he had sent the chairman a list of detailed business ideas. He questioned whether the current proposal is sustainable.
PH noted his comments.

Q.21 Member 20
M20 emphasised the need to keep revenue coming in to the club.
PH drew attention to the appointment of the full time business development director (response to Q4).