Bath Rugby celebrates appeal victory for new stadium plans

By Nick Batten on 4 January, 2022

Bath Rugby will restart planning its new 18,000-capacity stadium after a victory in the appeal court.

Judges ruled that historic covenants, thought by some to be a barrier to development at the Rec, are not enforceable.

The decision overturns a High Court ruling in October 2020 that at least one of the eight objectors had a right to the benefit of the covenants.

Following its successful appeal, the club said in a statement, “This is a significant step forward for the club, and our landlord, Bath Recreation Limited, who joined the appeal proceedings.

“The ruling provides the certainty needed to bring forward comprehensive plans for a new stadium at the Rec and work on design proposals will recommence in the New Year.”

Bath Rugby Chief Executive Tarquin McDonald added, “We are delighted with the ruling and can now focus on bringing forward revised proposals for a new stadium.

“This is important for the club and the city. The redevelopment will create new jobs, boost visitor spends, enhance the river frontage and help to provide education and support opportunities for young people who need it most.”

The 1922 covenant stated that nothing should be “erected, placed, built or done” on the land “which may be or grow to be a nuisance, annoyance or disturbance or otherwise prejudicially affect the adjoining premises or the neighbourhood”.

In his ruling, Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Newey said it was “clear beyond doubt” that the covenant was intended to bind the land, but it was less clear cut whether Great Pulteney Street resident Godfrey White and 77 Great Pulteney Street Ltd were entitled to the benefit of the covenant.

He allowed the appeal on the ground put forward by Bath Rugby that the conveyance did not identify the land intended to be benefited clearly or at all.

“The appellants ask for a declaration that the restrictive covenant contained in the 1922 conveyance is not binding on them, and if the other members of the court agree, I would make such a declaration,” said Lord Justice Newey.

The decision did not address the ruling last year that Bath Rugby should pay the defendants’ indemnity costs.

His judgement said events on the Rec such as the Bath Half Marathon and music festivals had drawn complaints from locals.

Lord Justice Newey wrote in his ruling, “Bath Recreation has joined in the appeal because the covenant in the 1922 conveyance is very widely expressed, and, if it is enforceable, Bath Recreation might be accused of breaching the covenant when carrying out such activities.”

Pictured above: Previous proposals for how the new stadium could look from inside | Image © Stadium for Bath