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Team work leads to multi-million Brickfields investment

01 March 2023
Councillor Pat Patel with Max Venables Plymouth Albion, Mark Lovell Plymouth Argyle Community Trust, and Dave Brown DCLL
Councillor Pat Patel photographed with Max Venables - Plymouth Albion, Mark Lovell - Plymouth Argyle Community Trust, and Dave Brown - DCLL.

A massive £21 million investment is on the cards for Brickfields that could see the site supercharged for action with professional football academy facilities sitting side by side a new community hub designed to support wellbeing needs of local people.

The proposals have been drawn up thanks to a partnership between Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Argyle Football Club, Plymouth Argyle Community Trust, Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club and Devonport Community Leisure Ltd.

The scheme includes a new community hub run by Plymouth Argyle Community Trust and initial concepts include expanding the existing offer within the sports centre. As well as a location for indoor sports it could become a base for:

  • education and employment programmes, such as apprenticeships and traineeships and adult education
  • support in physical, mental, emotional wellbeing as well as help with money management
  • a dedicated space for young people and youth service provision
  • soft play, improved affordable gym and studio facilities alongside a community café offering low cost food is also being considered.

The entire complex will be reconfigured and upgraded with:

  • facilities for Plymouth Argyle’s academy, including a new building with class rooms, changing rooms and office space, as well as training pitches.
  • an improved suite of playing pitches, providing three grass playing pitches for football
  • replacement of an existing grass rugby training pitch with a new 3G pitch
  • a new floodlit 3G football pitch to replace a poor condition (currently closed) hockey pitch 
  • a new, covered 3G football pitch
  • Conversion of the existing 60m x 40m rubber crumb pitch to two PlayZones exclusively for public use.
  • better site access, public realm and parking.

The investment would come from Plymouth Argyle Football Club, Plymouth Argyle Community Trust, external grants as well as a contribution from Plymouth City Council. The proposals would give Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club greater land security, allowing them to invest in improvements to their facilities. The Council is also working closely with Devonport Community Leisure Ltd (DCLL) who are a key partner and provide a link to the local community.

Councillor Pat Patel, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “This is an extraordinary deal that will unlock millions of pounds of investment to provide incredible facilities to nurture talent in this city as well as expand the offer to local people.

“We have been talking extensively to the people who use Brickfields, as well as groups and individuals in Devonport, about what facilities and activities they want to see. At the moment the entire site is not being used as well as it should be.

“We have a plan for sport that the city’s clubs and organisations helped create and this proposal really fits the bill. Together we are working to increase participation – opening up opportunities get more people involved in sports and physical activity. But this is also about pride; locating the Argyle Youth Academy in Brickfields strengthens the links between the city and Argyle Football Club as well as creating a sense of aspiration for the young people living nearby. We will not see a deal of this scale for many years to come.”

Plymouth Argyle Football Club have signalled an investment of £11 million from the club with a further £7.3 million from Argyle Community Trust, including external grants. The Council’s investment includes the transfer of land to the three clubs and a capital contribution of £2.75 million – funded through maintenance and management savings which are expected to be made as a result of the asset transfer.

The mechanism for the scheme will be a deal which enables Plymouth City Council, as landlord, to enter into new leases with each partner and to change the arrangements for operating and managing the Brickfields Sport Centre. A paper is going to Cabinet on 9 March recommending officers be authorised to proceed with negotiations.

Andrew Parkinson, Plymouth Argyle Chief Executive said: “Plymouth Argyle FC is fully engaged in, and supportive of, Plymouth City Council’s project to develop a multi-purpose sports complex and community venue at the current site of the Brickfields Sports Centre in Devonport.

“Regenerating the site to provide first-class facilities for our Academy and other elite sports addresses a need for the city, and will help attract, retain, and develop the region’s best sporting talent, not only for Argyle but other stakeholders, including Plymouth Albion RFC.

“The proposal will also provide significant benefit for the Devonport community, allowing the Argyle Community Trust to use redeveloped facilities to manage a thriving community hub, providing members of the public with access, support, and equipment to reduce health inequalities and promote wellbeing.

Max Venables, Managing Director of Plymouth Albion said: “We are delighted at theopportunity to work with city stakeholders to deliver an outstanding development at Brickfields. A lot of work has been going on to make sure we get the balance right between our club’s needs and those of the community. It’s an exciting time.”

Maurice West, a board member for DCLL added: “We are very encouraged by the work that’s been carried out to make sure our local residents get the facilities they want to use and that the direction of the centre is being broadened to include better health and wellbeing facilities.

“We are keen to make sure that the community remains at the heart of any decisions taken around this site and are looking forward to being actively involved as this project progresses.”

Ongoing discussions are taking place with England Hockey to ensure the Council’s commitment to secure the future of hockey in the city is realised, with investment set aside for this purpose. There is also funding ring-fenced for offsite provision for petanque.