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Weekly warns councillors ‘history is watching’ before vote on sports ground’s fate

A weekly newspaper has warned councillors “history is watching” them as they prepare to vote on whether to build on a historic football ground.

The Basingstoke Gazette has issued a front page warning to members of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s development control committee as they prepare to vote on the future of the Camrose Ground, which was the home of Basingstoke Town FC until last year.

HTFP has previously reported on the Gazette’s campaign to save the ground from development after the paper uncovered a 67-year-old covenant which stated the site should remain a sports facility until 2053.

The council objected to a plan to build a road through the site, but a planning application, put forward by the company of the club’s former owner Rafi Razzak, to build 85 homes on the site has now been recommended for approval by planning officers.

Basingstoke history

Ahead of this Wednesday’s vote the Gazette wrote to all 12 councillors on the committee and splashed on the warning on Thursday, pictured above.

An accompanying editorial reads: “As a newspaper, we cannot fathom why the council’s planning officers are hell-bent on turning this concrete nightmare into a reality by ridding the town of this vital sports facility.

“In its own manifesto, the council purports to want to tackle climate change and has set itself ambitious targets to become carbon neutral by 2025.

“Constructing a busy new road through the heart of a residential area, filling the lungs of future generations with petrol fumes, is a peculiar decision.

“Residents will rightly question if town hall chiefs have their interests or the developers in their minds.”

The Gazette went on to urge the councillors to “make the right decision”.

It added: “Because we have a simple message – history is watching. The town is watching. We are watching.

“The story of the Camrose scandal as it has come to be known has now extended far beyond Basingstoke with Gary Lineker, TalkSport and the BBC all paying close attention.

“A football stadium is far more than just a place to kick a ball about. It is an escape from the stresses of everyday life. It is a goal for young people in the borough. It is a place our town becomes synonymous with. It is a place that we can all be proud of, football fan or not.

“We say that robbing the town of a sporting facility at a time when we’re encouraged to be more active sends the wrong message to the children of today, many of whom would have used or visited The Camrose if they were just a few years older.

“Whatever has happened in the past, councillors next Wednesday have the opportunity to right the wrongs of previous generations.

“Only they can stop this scandal from continuing and save our town the embarrassment of having an authority that places profits above its people.”