SPORTS clubs which use West Witney Sports Ground are joining forces to negotiate a long-term lease for the site, so they can improve its facilities.
At present football, cricket, tennis, bowls and shooting clubs all have separate agreements with Witney Town Council for the parts of the sports ground they use.
They have set up the West Witney Sports Association with the aim of presenting a business plan to the council showing how a new arrangement would help them to secure grants for improvements.
The association’s chairman, Sue Wilson, of Witney Mills Bowls Club, said a long-term lease would provide stability after the council considered selling the site and building new facilities elsewhere.
She said: “There has been so much uncertainty. Having a long-term lease would help us get better facilities, because it would open up so many doors for match-funding that is only available to sports clubs with control over their facilities.”
The sports association would be run as a not-for-profit community club. The committee hopes to negotiate a 25-year lease and would then sub-let facilities to each club.
They also plan to ask for £250,000 in funding designated for sports facilities linked to the the 1,000-home West Witney development to be allocated towards improvements at the ground, in Burford Road.
The association is expected to make a presentation next month to the town council’s West Witney Sports Ground working party, to explain how it would run the site.
A report on sports facilities commissioned from consultants Sports Solutions GB by the council estimated it would cost £500,000 to upgrade the pavilion but Mrs Wilson said more should be done. She said: “If we’re running it as a business we want to expand the building and improve it.”
Witney Lawn Tennis Club chairman Chris Pyne, a member of the association, said his club pays about £3,000-a-year in rent to the council.
He said: “Having a long lease would allow us to do a lot more than we can at the moment, because it’s very difficult to make long-term plans when we pay rent.
“To get grants from the Lawn Tennis Association, we would need a lease of 21 years.”
Last April, the council reversed plans to sell the ground to housing developers for £7m.
Town councillor Ben Woodruff said forming an association was the “way forward”.
He added: “We’ve got to give these organisations the chance to get grant funding to take the projects on. If it’s done properly, it would save the council money and preserve a valuable asset.”