Hop Oast planning application could see Hornets have a home again

Horsham chief executive John Lines at the Hop Oast site
Horsham chief executive John Lines at the Hop Oast site

After six and a half years as nomads, Tuesday could finally be the day Horsham Football Club have a place to call home again.

In May 2008, the Hornets played their last game at the charismatic Queen Street and it has been a long, painful battle ever since to secure a new home.

HOR 190408 Horsham FC at Queen Street for the last time, against Billericay. DM

HOR 190408 Horsham FC at Queen Street for the last time, against Billericay. DM

Planning applications for the new ground at Hop Oast are set to be discussed at Horsham District Council next week and council officials have boosted the club’s plight by recommending they be approved.

The second part of the application is for 57 homes to be built on the Holbrook Club site, owned by the club, to fund the construction of a new ground.

The plans to build the new modest stadium on the Horsham Golf & Fitness owned land in Worthing Road were announced in June 2013 – five years after the application to build at The Holbrook Club was turned down - and repeated delays have dented progress.

It has been a roller coaster ride, with plenty more lows than highs for the long-suffering Hornets, but club chief executive John Lines has labelled Tuesday as a key day in the club’s future.

He said: “This decision means absolutely everything to the club. Tuesday, January 20, 2015 is the most important date in the recent history of Horsham Football Club when the planning application for a new ground is heard.

“If this application succeeds, not only will the club be in a permanent home of their own, but as landlords of The Holbrook Club we will be working together with them to ensure their own sustainable future.

“Success of the application will bring with it a donation to them from ourselves of £200,000 to commence repairs and improvements at their discretion and we will support any ambition by them to enlarge or improve their facilities.”

The ground will provide the only 3G all-weather facilities within 11 miles and despite being privately funded, it will be publicly available to provide opportunities for the whole town.

It will offer facilities that can be used by all ages and abilities, including the disabled, youth and junior football and adult five-a-side leagues, as well as local schools to utilise the all-weather pitch for training, matches and tournaments.

It will be offered to local businesses and the public for conferences, meetings and social events.

After leaving 100 years of history at Queen Street, Horsham, who have been part of the town’s identity since 1871, had to take on the financial burden of playing a season at Worthing, before ground sharing with Horsham YMCA ever since.

Hop Oast will not only ensure the economic survival of the club and continue to provide entertainment and memories such as the 2007’s FA Cup run, but safeguard the future of The Holbrook Club as a sporting facility. The club have said that employment opportunities will arise and 40 jobs will be kept at Holbrook where there will be funds invested.

Lines continued: “There are a mix of emotions. We cannot just expect it to go through and we will not take it for granted until it all goes through.

“We are very pleased the officers have recommended an approval of consent but will not be blasé or relaxed for one moment until after the decision. We remember, we need to win 2-0 on the night and get the Holbrook application through as well.

“Nothing is ever definite, but it is a firm positive the view of the officers recommending it. If it is turned down on the night, we of course will have the opportunity to appeal it.”

Memories of Queen Street - See our slideshow slideshow of Horsham’s FA Cup tie against Swansea in 2007.