AFTER years of planning, the keys for the new rugby and football club in Melksham were handed over by Wiltshire Council to the clubs’ two chairmen.

The new facility, named Oakfields, is a big step forward for the Melksham Campus plans, marking an investment of £7.3 million out of the £23 million budget for the town’s development.

To mark the completion of the project, members of Wiltshire Council visited the site at Woolmore Farm on Tuesday (January 10) to hand the keys over to the football and rugby clubs.

Councillor John Thompson, portfolio holder for campuses for Wiltshire Council, said: “I think the end result of the project is tremendous and the reaction we have had from the clubs is also tremendous.

“It is great that we have a rugby and football club on the same site, I think it will work well. Even though it has taken longer than expected I think it was worth the wait, it is better to have taken extra time to make it like this instead of rushing it and missing out on some of the details.

“The facility is also sustainable and will be able to be used for the next 50 or 60 years or even longer than that.”

Work on the club has seen a number of delays since the plans were first announced, in April 2015 Wiltshire Council said that crested newts were living on the site and that the two clubs had to stay at Melksham House for the remainder of the 2015/16 season.

More delays struck the development in October 2016 when the clubs were told to expect to move in December as there was no electricity at the site.

Pat Holtom, 48, of West Street in Lacock, chairman of Melksham Rugby Club, said: “This is absolutely fantastic, a great opportunity for both teams. From what we have come from, having one pitch, to having all this space and the changing rooms is fantastic. We have been wanting this opportunity for 10 years and now we have it.”

The new grounds for the two clubs now boasts a 1,733 square metre building with 16 football and rugby pitches, mixed between junior and adult pitches, as well as car parking and a new access road and junction.

Dave Wiltshire, 53, of Beanacre, chairman of Melksham football club, said: “It’s amazing, it is all ready to use as well. It is an amazing facility and one that we will be able to use. We are so thankful to the council for making this all possible. Our first match is on Saturday and we are looking forward to the start of playing at the grounds.”

Further steps towards the Melksham Campus plans will continue towards the end of the month when Melksham Market Place will see works begin, providing a new pedestrian zone, a bespoke market as well as vehicular access to the Melksham House site which is set to become the new health and wellbeing centre.