Reaction: ‘Huge blow’ for Milton Keynes as Badminton England drops National Bowl plans

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Badminton England’s decision to pull out of using the National Bowl for its training facilities is a “huge blow” for the city, according to the council leader.

Councillor Pete Marland has expressed his disappointment at today’s news that funding issues proved to be the project’s stumbling block.

It follows two years of hard work by the council to secure the move - and is a massive set back to Milton Keynes’ aspirations to become an International Sporting City.

Mr Marland said: “Obviously this is a huge blow, particularly as we put so much work into this project. Unfortunately, we’ve been stymied by events out of our control.

“That said, Milton Keynes is nothing if not resilient, and we’ve still got all the key credentials to cement our place as an international sporting city.

“We will continue to throw ourselves into our role as a Host City for Rugby World Cup 2015, which is going to be massive for Milton Keynes and quite literally a ‘game changer’.”

Badminton England brought forward planning applications on September 4, 2013, for a new national badminton arena and community sports facility at the Bowl, to be largely funded from residential development at their existing facility at Loughton Lodge.

The applications were unanimously approved by the Council’s Development Control Committee, which also agreed to forego affordable housing and certain other planning obligations that would otherwise have been due on the Loughton Lodge site in order to support the Badminton England development.

The Council sought to facilitate the Arena project in every way that it could, through:

· Agreeing to transfer the full value of its interest in the Loughton Lodge site - c £7.5m - to the Arena project

· Facilitating the transfer of c £1.5m of value held by the Parks Trust in the Loughton Lodge site to the Arena project

· Organising the land assembly and the provisional Heads of Terms for the sale of the Loughton Lodge site to a developer

· Meeting the associated legal costs of circa £75k and

· Providing considerable amounts of officer time to support the development of the scheme.

But today Badminton England said: “As much as we wanted this project to work, the responsibility to protect the financial health of Badminton England has overridden the opportunities that we saw this project delivering.”

The council says it remains committed to supporting the development of sport in Milton Keynes and the upcoming Rugby World Cup programme is “testament to this commitment”.

A new community sports facility will also open later on this year, which will target badminton participation through the use of two brand new courts.

Cllr Edith Bald, Leader of the local Conservative party, said: “The news from Badminton England is very disappointing, especially as the Council bent over backwards to make this happen.

“However at the end of the day the sums could not be made to add up so Badminton England have done the right thing. We still have the facility at Loughton Lodge and I sincerely hope this will continue.”

The council is also strongly supporting the development of the Bowl through the Milton Keynes Development Partnership, including maximising the use of the Bowl for both sporting and leisure activities.