Council ‘being held to ransom’ over Milton Keynes badminton centre

Chris and Gabby Adcock
Chris and Gabby Adcock

The Parks Trust has been accused of holding the council to ransom over the future of Badminton England in Milton Keynes.

The national badminton centre has been striving to become a world class venue for three years.

After a first attempt to build a new £22 million at the National Bowl was scrapped due to funding problems, MK Council offered another winning shot – this time to develop the existing facility at Loughton Lodge.

The council, despite its cash-strapped state, has agreed to hand the centre a chunk of land worth £3.6m for housing development.

The project would give Badminton England enough cash to transform Loughton Lodge into a top class sporting facility.

But the plan’s feasibility hinges on the Parks Trust, who hold the lease on some of the council’s land.

And this week they have refused to relinquish the lease – unless the council gives them Emberton Country Park, one of its prime sites.

A council source said: “Handing over Emberton Park was indeed part of the deal with the National Bowl plan, but this time the figures wouldn’t add up if we did it. It feels like we are being held to ransom and we’re worried Badminton England will up sticks and move to another part of the country.”

The Parks Trust is a charitable limited company and owns land and assets in MK worth £70m. It uses the income from this portfolio to enhance the local landscape.

Chief executive David Foster said he was keen to help Badminton England but could not give up the lease on the Loughton land without receiving something of equal value in return.

He told the Citizen: “The Trust’s board feels it must hold firm to the principle that if, in exceptional circumstances, it agrees to give up its lease on parts of the city’s green estate, then the value created should be reinvested back into improving the provision of green space and park facilities in MK.”

Adrian Christy, Chief Executive of Badminton England, said: “To date, we have received great support from MK Council and we had hoped that Parks Trust would be equally supportive, so it’s disappointing and frustrating that they have rejected what we felt was a fair proposal.

“We are now in the process of convening a meeting with The Parks Trust and MK Council to discuss what options there are to move forward. We are not ready to give up on a project that would be fantastic for Milton Keynes.”

Already Badminton England supports Olympic duo Chris and Gabby Adcock, who live in Milton Keynes.