Badminton England end their interest in the Bowl

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Badminton England’s proposed move to the National Bowl has been removed after directors met last week.

The governing body had put forward plans, as did MK Dons, to make use of the concert venue for new training facilities as part of Milton Keynes’ aspirations to become an International Sporting City.

However, with politics surrounding the ownership of the Bowl, Badminton England have opted to end their interest in using the venue as a site for their new headquarters.

A statement said: “Following further extensive consideration of the viability of the proposed National Badminton Arena development, at its meeting on 29 July 2015, the Board of Directors of Badminton England regretfully took the decision not to pursue a move to the National Bowl.

“When we presented the vision for the National Badminton Arena, it was clear that not only would it have been transformational for English badminton in so many ways but this state of the art, world class training and community sports facility, would be the cornerstone of Milton Keynes aspirations to be recognised as an International Sporting City.

“The National Badminton Arena would have delivered one of the best badminton training facilities in the world; satisfied the massive demand for badminton court time by the local community; presented an outstanding community sports facility, across a range of sports; provided free sports hall time to local primary schools during term time and attracted a host of European and International major events to Milton Keynes, not just in badminton, but across a range of sports thereby delivering significant economic impact.

“Fundamental to the project though was not just the affordability of the capital programme but ensuring the ongoing viability of the facility. The funding gap that became apparent was exacerbated by the upturn in the construction industry which led to a significant widening of the gap.

“Having forensically explored numerous options to close the gap, it became clear that each of them would have posed a major concern to the ongoing viability of the facility and more importantly placed the financial sustainability of Badminton England at considerable risk.

“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.

“Badminton England would like to express its thanks to everyone who shared our vision and for playing their part in trying to bring it to reality, particularly the previous, and current, administration at Milton Keynes Council (both Members and Officers), Milton Keynes Development Partnership, the Parks Trust, the Homes & Communities Agency, Sport England, Table Tennis England, the MK Sports Board, the Members of Badminton England, Emptage Architects, Dudley Smith Partnership, Nortoft, Novus and our local MPs.

“Badminton England will now cease its plans for the new Arena facility on the National Bowl and take some time to consider alternative options.”

A spokesman from Milton Keynes Council added: “It is a huge disappointment that the Badminton Arena project is now not proceeding. Milton Keynes Council has worked very hard over an extended period to support the work of Badminton England.

“Badminton England brought forward planning applications on 4 September 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.

“We remain committed to supporting the development of sport in Milton Keynes and the upcoming Rugby World Cup programme is testament to this commitment. We are also due to open a new community sports facility later on this year which will target badminton participation through the use of two brand new courts.

“The Council is also strongly supporting the development of the Bowl through the Milton Keynes Development Partnership.

“This includes maximising the use of the Bowl for both sporting and leisure activities for or the benefit of Milton Keynes citizens.”

Leader of the Council Councillor Pete 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.”

Councillor Edith Bald, leader of the Conservative group added: ““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.”