MELKSHAM Community Campus has been delayed once again with Wiltshire Council claiming it is because of newts living on the proposed Woolmore site where the football and rugby clubs were set to move to.
Building work has been delayed as newts are protected under both the Wildlife and Countryside Act and Conservation Regulations. This means it is an offence to kill, damage or destroy the resting places used by these amphibians.
Because of the delays at Woolmore Farm it has meant construction on the main campus site has been pushed back as Wiltshire Council have an obligation to relocate the football and rugby clubs as part of the building work.
As a result, Melksham Town FC and Melksham RFC will stay at their current home for at least another full season, taking them to the end of the 2015/16 campaign.
The latest campus setback comes less than a month after 500 people said an emotional farewell in, what everyone thought was, the football club’s last match at their historic Conigre ground.
The Community Campus idea was first announced in 2010 when Wiltshire Council had said they hoped to have it open and fully operating by late 2012.
But now it is likely that it will be open five years after that date, with a new revised opening date of late 2017.
The campus delay has left mayor Terri Welch feeling frustrated. She said, “It was such a shame to hear the news that the campus will be delayed once again.
“It is a source of frustration for me and for so many people in the town that once again it will be delayed.”
Other critics of the council have said the council knew about the newts months ago and something should have been done at a much earlier date.
The delay has caused some embarrassment for Melksham Town FC who were under the impression they had played their last game at their Conigre home. Chairman Dave Wiltshire said, “It has left us with egg on our faces to an extent as we had our farewell to the ground and that attracted so many people.
“We had no idea that we would be staying at the Conigre for another year but we understand why it has been delayed and we are grateful that Wiltshire Council is doing so much for us.
“We were obviously looking forward to moving forward into our new ground but the Conigre is a special place, so some fans will be happy to see us there for one more season.
“In a way it is probably better for us as it means we were faced with starting next season in a half-built ground at Woolmore, so at least this way we can make the move properly into a completed stadium in 2016.”
In a statement to the Melksham News, a Wiltshire Council spokesman said, “An ecological study highlighted some newts on the Woolmore Farm site which means they will have to be removed. Obviously they will be removed in a way that protects them and this can take some time.
“It was originally scheduled that the clubs would be asked to move to the new site for part of the 2015/16 season and that interim transition arrangements would be put in place whilst the development took place.
“However, due to environmental and access issues, both clubs will be able to continue to play at the existing site for the 2015/16 season. The new facilities will be available for the start of the 2016/17 season allowing a seamless transition and no requirement for transition arrangements to be put in place.
“Work on the community campus will start following the move of the clubs (July 2016 – with completion late 2017).”