Rushmoor Borough Council has agreed to grant Aldershot Town FC a new 118-year lease at a significantly reduced rent to help the club with its redevelopment plans.
Members of the council’s Cabinet agreed the move after hearing that it was in the interests of both parties to grant the extended lease. Redeveloping the stadium provides significant benefit to Aldershot and far outweighs the substantial financial risk of the council taking ownership of the site long term.
The existing lease expires in May 2023 and the football club is currently paying £25,000 a year rent, although in recent years it has received some rent and business rate relief. The new lease will only start on the grant of planning permission, with a peppercorn rent of just £1 a year, but the football club would still be fully liable for any repairs and maintenance costs. Until planning consent is secured, the £25,000-a-year rent will remain payable.
The ground, which occupies a prime site in the High Street, was opened in 1926 and has changed little since construction 90 years ago. The Cabinet was told that the club was faced with a decaying ground with mounting repair obligations, however the pitch is considered high quality and is also used by Premiership giants Chelsea FC. A detailed inspection was recommended to discover the full extent of refurbishment costs, although this would need to be commissioned by the football club.
The council ownership currently extends beyond the stadium to the east, where there are three dilapidated tennis courts, and pedestrian pathways through woodlands allowing access to the old Redan Hill fort. Under the new lease, the responsibility for maintaining this area would transfer to the football club, and in turn, it would be allowed to redevelop part of this area, subject to planning permission.
The agreement between the council and Aldershot Town FC will make sure that any financial benefits from the redevelopment work would be recycled directly into the football club to help its continued growth and promotion through the football leagues. The council has made sure numerous safeguards are in place, including negotiating strict anti-embarrassment clauses so that, if the club wants to dispose of any developed part, the council will receive a share of any profit.
The long-term benefits of redevelopment would include job creation at the new stadium and prosperity for the club’s supporters, which would generate income for local retailers by encouraging fans to visit the town and stadium.
The Cabinet was told that if Aldershot Town FC does not complete agreed redevelopment plans within ten years of the granting of the new lease, then the annual rent would revert back to £25,000 a year and be subject to open market reviews every five years.
Rushmoor Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Major Projects and Property, Councillor Martin Tennant, said: “Granting the football club a long lease makes complete sense – it gives them a chance to raise the funds they need to modernise their stadium. For the council, it means that we don’t have to incur any significant financial cost to maintain and repair this extensive area of land.
“A successful football club in a fit-for-purpose stadium would be great for supporters and for Aldershot as a town, so we hope this move gives them the security they need to build for the future.”