Work begins on new artificial grass pitch at rugby club after ‘hard slog’

The new surface is set to open in the summer

By Robert Iles Gloucester Rugby Writer

James Hillier 1st XV Captain, Stephen Ratcliffe Club Chairman, Alex Chalk MP Cheltenham, Jessica Elbeck Ladies Captain, David Townsend Club President, Adrian Siddorn Chairman Gloucestershire RFU – (Image: Morgan Harlow)

Work on Cheltenham Rugby Club’s new artificial grass pitch (AGP) has started today, eight years after they first obtained planning permission.

Due for official opening later this summer, the new surface at the club’s Newlands Park ground is funded by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and is part of the their Rugby World Cup 2015 legacy of delivering more than £50m investment over four years, via the development of 100 AGPs across England.

Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk was among the local dignitaries and supporters who celebrated the commencement of the construction work at a President’s Day on Saturday when the first team played Wells in what is thought to be their last home match on the existing grass pitch.

“We are absolutely delighted that works are finally starting,” said Cheltenham chairman Stephen Ratcliffe.

“The Club obtained planning permission for an artificial pitch in May 2010, it has been a hard slog to get to this stage.

“Everyone associated with the club are really excited to be hosting a World Rugby Compliant pitch.

“This facility will be a massive boost to rugby development in the Cheltenham and surrounding areas.”

The all-weather, floodlit surface will enable additional training sessions and more flexibility in playing times for the club.

It will also be available to local clubs who will have the chance to benefit from year-round rugby as a direct result of the facility.

As a result, the AGP is expected to increase rugby participation across clubs and community groups in the region, further growing the sport.

Partner of Gloucestershire law firm Willans LLP, who negotiated the documents leading to the construction of the new pitch, Paul Gordon said: “The new pitch is the first of its kind in North Gloucestershire and it was a pleasure for Willans to be involved in the legal work facilitating its opening, which will doubtless encourage more groups and clubs to participate in the sport.”

RFU Rugby Development Director Steve Grainger said: “We hope the local community will embrace the new AGP and take advantage of the additional opportunities it provides people to play year-round rugby.”

The opening of the artificial grass pitch is scheduled for July this year.