Rugby club hits out in ground sale row

A RUGBY club which has been in a Yorkshire spa town for more than a century has accused developers of using “strongarm tactics” to try and secure more than £1m for its ground.

Harrogate Rugby Club has been based at Claro Road for the past 114 years, but sold the land to Crest Nicholson in 1999.

The club remained at the site after agreeing a 10-year lease, before a deal was approved to remain for the 2010-11 season.

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But the company has confirmed it is taking possession of the ground on June 1, leaving the club with an uncertain future.

Despite protracted discussions with Harrogate Council and Crest Nicholson, the club’s officials have been unable to find another location for its ground.

The club’s chairman, Paul Barnard, claimed Crest Nicholson is using “strongarm negotiating tactics” to extract the maximum price from the club for the Claro Road site.

He added: “It is profoundly disappointing that through this process Crest have given little thought to our members and employees who now find themselves without a community club and employer respectively.

“It beggars belief that a professional organisation such as Crest would behave in such a manner.”

According to Mr Barnard, Crest Nicholson rejected a revised offer of £1m after the club attempted to buy back the freehold of Claro Road. The landowner has agreed to sell but wants £1.2m.

Mr Barnard revealed that the firm had paid £610,000 to the club for the freehold of the site, which he claimed had a current market value of about £500,000.

Crest Nicholson’s chief executive, Stephen Stone, maintained every effort had been made to find the rugby club an alternative site for relocation.

But Mr Stone admitted there was now a “very real risk” that the town would lose the club altogether. He also stressed that the future use of the land has yet to be determined.