On the 12th September 2019, as Leader of the Conservative Councillors I put forward an emergency motion to a Full Meeting of Bury Council. The Motion instructed Bury Council to immediately express its interest and put together a business plan for purchasing Bury FC and Gigg Lane. Sadly, this did not happen, but the then Leader of the Council said during the debate that both sides of the chamber had the same “end goal”, the only difference being how to get there.
In the Chancellors Budget last week, amongst other announcements, the Chancellor announced the creation of the Community Ownership Fund. The Budget Red Book states the fund is to “help ensure that communities across the UK can continue to benefit from the local facilities that are most important to them.” It then goes further, “In exceptional cases up to £1 million of matched funding will be available to….buy a sports ground at risk of loss from the community.”
In my view Gigg Lane offers near unlimited potential as a community and sporting hub, which is central to the social and cultural identity of our town. Together with being a crucial asset to drive regeneration, job creation, the delivery of statutory, medical and health services amongst others. Its proximity to Bury College means it has the potential to deliver crucial skills training and therefore improve life chances.
Whatever happens we should all see Gigg Lane for what it is, a historic, heritage asset which should be open to everyone no matter their background, sex, age, race, disability. It is a site of such importance that we should take the opportunity to attempt it’s purchase on behalf of everyone within Bury
The details of the application process for the Community Fund will soon be published and I truly hope that we can all work together in delivering a bid that, hopefully, allows an attempt to purchase Gigg Lane. This will not be easy as significant match funding is required but if successful the benefits for the town as a whole are obvious.
Any bid must be inclusive and recognise the different views of all local football fans. Let’s all come together as one community to make a unified effort to ensure football is played again at Gigg Lane at the earliest opportunity and ensure everyone feels they have a stake in this process.