The Avenue

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This article is about the rugby stadium. For the skyscraper, see L'Avenue. For other uses, see Avenue (disambiguation).
The Avenue
London Irish's Final Game at Sunbury - geograph.org.uk - 251557.jpg
Final Game at The Avenue, against Saracens
Full name The Avenue
Location The Avenue, Sunbury-on-Thames, TW16 5EQ
Owner London Irish Holdings Ltd.
Surface Grass
Construction
Built 1931
Opened 1931
Tenants
London Irish,
London Irish Amateur
1931-1999
1999-present

The Avenue was a rugby union stadium and training pitches in Sunbury-on-Thames that belonged to the English club London Irish since 1931 when the team purchased 11 acres (4.5 ha) to establish a club there. The team moved to Madjeski Stadium in 1999, but retained The Avenue as a training venue and location for pre-season friendlies. In 2013 the club began to train at its new, larger Hazelwood facility in the same town, including the "London Irish England Rugby Academy" and the grounds are being converted to surburban housing interspersed with some parkland.

History[edit]

The land was purchased in 1931 for £1,280 (equivalent to £75,884 in 2015) to be the home stadium for London Irish, before they left in 1999 to play at the Madjeski Stadium.[1] The ground then began to be used by the London Irish Amateur side.[2][3] London Irish played their last senior league game at The Avenue on 1 May 1999 against Saracens.[4][5] and is also used as a training venue for the London Irish England Rugby Academy.[6] At its peak, The Avenue could hold up to 6,600 spectators.[7]

Redevelopment[edit]

London Irish published in 2009 its plans to demolish its training facility that was its ancestral home ground to replace it with 400 houses while relocating the club offices and training to redevelop nearby Hazelwood Golf Centre.[8]

At the local government planning committee meeting, the councillors of all parties opposed redevelopment, citing various grounds, including limited public transport, increasing existing peak hour congestion, too few bedrooms per dwelling and initially a highly urban density as well as some character shortcomings.[9][10] As a result of the plans, local residents set up protest groups against the plans,[11] such as the Sunbury Opposes London Irish Development (SOLID) which shared some resources with Lower Sunbury Residents Association.[12] On 15 April 2010, around 500 local people attended a protest march against the plans, claiming that London Irish just wanted to make money off the land despite the club's claim that it would engage with the community.[13] The plans did however have the support of the Rugby Football Union, Premier Rugby, Sport England and the Rugby Player's Association.

As a result of the negative reaction from the local residents and councillors the club downsized their plans from 400 to fewer than 200 homes,[14] as well as including construction of a health care centre and a residential care home to go in with the developments.[15]

In 2010, London Irish applied for the planning permission to demolish the grandstand and replace it with residential houses, however the plans were rejected by Spelthorne Council.[16] The plans were rejected because in the council's eyes, the development "...would have resulted in an unacceptable lose (sic) of an outdoor sports facility." It was revealed that the council had received 857 letters opposing the plans with only 250 letters in support of them, with 206 of the supporting letters coming from outside the borough.[17] London Irish announced that they would appeal against this decision.[18] This appeal led to the council announcing an inquiry to be held on 7 June 2011 and lasting 12 days to discuss the future of the ground. [19] The London Irish Chief Executive Andy Martin said that the move was needed as the ground lacked sufficient rugby pitches and that they had the senior team sharing facilities with the amateur and junior teams. [20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ London Irish Rugby Club London
  2. ^ Wild Geese on brink of the title
  3. ^ Directions to The Avenue, Sunbury - London Irish Training Ground and Offices
  4. ^ "Match Report: 01 May 1999 London Irish v Saracens". Irish4.digital-ink.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  5. ^ "London Irish announce pre-season friendlies". BBC Sport. 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  6. ^ "Training Venues". London Irish. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  7. ^ "LONDON IRISH 47 BATH 22". Findarticles.com. 1999-04-18. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  8. ^ Adam Courtney. "London Irish pledges to consult Sunbury folk". Surrey Herald. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  9. ^ "UPDATED - London Irish proposals for Hazelwood and the Avenue - plans to be unveiled in September". Spelthorne Liberal Democrats. 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  10. ^ Adam Tyler-Moore - Labour, Spelthorne (2010-04-12). "Adam Tyler-Moore - Labour, Spelthorne - Surrey Herald - Elections - Labour Party". Elections.surreyherald.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  11. ^ http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2062998_action_groups_set_up_to_oppose_london_irish_plans
  12. ^ "Residents out in force for London Irish protest". Get Surrey. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  13. ^ "Protest march over London Irish Surrey HQ plans". BBC News. 2010-04-10. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  14. ^ Mairs, Gavin (2010-04-05). "London Irish threaten to leave Sunbury headquarters". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  15. ^ Sunbury in Touch - Spelthorne Conservatives
  16. ^ Appeal against double rejection of London Irish plan
  17. ^ Spelthorne Borough Council (2010-04-27). "Planning committee - 27 April 2010". Spelthorne.gov.uk. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  18. ^ "London Irish rugby club HQ plans are rejected". BBC News. 2010-04-28. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  19. ^ Spelthorne Borough Council. "Appeal London Irish". Spelthorne.gov.uk. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  20. ^ "London Irish move must happen Andy Martin". BBC Sport. 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 

Coordinates: 51°24′52.12″N 0°24′45.57″W / 51.4144778°N 0.4126583°W / 51.4144778; -0.4126583