CHAIRMAN Richard Thorndike insists the “threat of extinction” remains very real for Alvechurch FC as the club wait to find out whether they will receive the money needed to carry out necessary work at their proposed new site.
Alvechurch hope to move all of their teams across to The Hayes, a 20-acre site off Redhill Road and Redditch Road, and have already begun work having installed a 3G pitch, clubhouse, changing rooms and car park.
However, with Church’s lease at their Lye Meadow ground up in May, the club need to receive the green light from Bromsgrove Planning that the two sites, which they currently pay for, are linked.
The club have used all the funds available to them to develop five and a half acres at The Hayes but are unable to progress further until a decision is made on whether houses can be built on their current Lye Meadow home.
Thorndike said: “Lye Meadow is 90 years old, it’s falling down, creaking and just about meets the level for the standard that we play at – which is step three of non-league.
“We knew we needed to move to survive, we’re on a year-to-year tenancy at Lye Meadow, it expired last year but because of the pandemic and lockdown the landlord could not do anything with it.
“This year, at the end of May, our lease finishes at Lye Meadow, we’re in talks with the landlord pleading for another year, he has not made a decision yet – the threat of extinction is not a veiled one.
“If the landlord says ‘we’re not going to renew your lease’ we have to get kicked out because we’re not protected by any covenants that allow us to stay there beyond the lease terms.”
And Thorndike hopes that a decision will be made sooner rather than later with no date set as to when Bromsgrove Planning will make a final decision on the matter.
Thorndike added: “We put the application in at Lye Meadow in February 2019, it’s been delayed because of the pandemic and more information being required, we’re on a real knife edge at the moment, it goes to committee but it keeps getting put back.
“Bromsgrove Planning are going to sit and make a decision on whether or not the two sites are linked, we couldn’t afford the to run the application simultaneously so we got them both separately.
“They’re saying, if we had run them both simultaneously, very special circumstances could have been used to give us planning application for residential housing at Lye Meadow as well as the stadium.
“We’re saying, just because we couldn’t afford to run the two simultaneously ‘please don’t penalise us’ because we didn’t tick the box properly at the very beginning.
“You can see they’re linked, all the Alvechurch teams play here and we’re still at Lye Meadow, you know the two are linked, they asked us to get barrister’s opinion which we did which has gone in.
“Now, we’re at a knife edge to say ‘please link them, please give us the planning, let us have the houses down at Lye Meadow’ and that will release enough funds for us to build the rest of the grass pitches at The Hayes.”
Alvechurch own one fifth of their Lye Meadow site and, if permission is granted for 25 houses to be built on the land, the club will have enough money to complete their development of The Hayes.
He said: “The Hayes is in green belt, as is Lye Meadow, and we were offered the opportunity to run something called a concurrent planning application which would enable us to move.
“What we could sell the old ground for would generate enough funds for us to move to the new ground, but the enabling application to run two simultaneously was just too costly for somebody like us.
“We opted to go for planning here, which was a new 3G facility and a new stadium, we got that passed by Bromsgrove LPA.
“We then went to the FA for funding and raised our own funds – this is a £1.6 million project – the Football Foundation have given us 73%, we’ve had to fund the rest through fans, sponsors, the board, we’ve managed to get it done.
“We’ve delivered a mini clubhouse and a 3G facility but we can’t do the rest at the moment because we haven’t got the money, we’ve used all our funds to get the 3G done and the clubhouse done – the rest is overgrown, muddy and undrained.
“We want to grow the junior section and the girls section but we can’t, and we’ve got three or four disability teams who can’t play because we’re limited to one pitch.”
The club’s Director of Sport, Mark Fogarty, will present the club’s plans to Alvechurch Parish Council at a meeting on Monday and has previously helped to develop football in the community sections at both Leamington and Solihull Moors.
And the initial planning application for Lye Meadow was made back in February 2019 only for the Covid pandemic and lockdown to continue to push back the committee date.
The Hayes is owned by Birmingham City Council with planning control given to Birmingham under the supervision of Alvechurch Parish Council.
Below is a video narrated by Thorndike outlining the club’s plans.