Badminton England a step closer to National Bowl move

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BADMINTON England has submitted a detailed planning application to Milton Keynes Council for its proposed new centre at the National Bowl, which would open by May 2015.

The sport’s governing body began the process of relocating from the National Badminton Centre in Loughton to a new £22 million facility at the Bowl in October last year – a move that will see around 100 new homes built at its existing Bradwell Road site.

The council is currently preparing a Development Brief for the Bowl after taking control of the famous music venue as part of a £32 million transfer of assets from the Homes & Communities Agency at the turn of the year. The council’s proposals, separate to those submitted by Badminton England, include a training ground for Milton Keynes Dons, a cycling track, and the facility’s retention as a major events venue.

Badminton England’s new 15 acre national centre, earmarked for the site known as the north east car park adjacent to the V4 Watling Street, includes a 2,400-seat arena with 12 badminton courts, a second hall with a further five courts, as well as 12 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, health club with swimming pool, conference rooms and hospitality boxes. There will also be a 27-room accommodation block.

Adrian Christy, chief executive of Badminton England, believes the project – funded by the sale of land at Loughton and backing from Sport England and the Bucks Lawn Tennis Association – will be the flagship of the city’s International Sporting City concept.

“This will be a state-of-the-art venue that will bring international competitions to Milton Keynes, and provide a fantastic community sports facility for local people,” he said.

“We did a 10,000 leaflet drop to houses in the local area and we’ve had excellent feedback from people excited by the prospect of having such an outstanding facility on their doorstep.

“We’ve had great support from Milton Keynes Council, the Bucks LTA and people in the local area. It’s going to be a truly iconic venue.”

The project is expected to be approved by early summer, meaning that building work could begin in November, with the aim of completion by May 2015 – just over a year before the country’s elite badminton players head to Brazil for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Mr Christy said the new centre will attract international competitions from other sports, and he hasn’t given up hope of convincing another governing body to relocate to the site after talks with England Netball, based in Hitchin, proved fruitless. Talks are ongoing with England Fencing and a wheelchair sport.

“We have the potential to offer the Milton Keynes public and local school access to top sports facilities that are not available in the area,” added Mr Christy.

“The vision of the International Sporting City will not only create a lasting legacy, but sets our sights as being a major player among other sporting cities in this country.

“The arena could also house a new basketball franchise or netball team from the Superleague.”