THE loss of the historic Land Rover Sports and Social Club would be a ‘nail in the coffin’ for Solihull’s young musicians, a youth orchestra chief has claimed.
As we reported, Jaguar Land Rover eventually wants to reclaim the club’s entire site – which it owns – on Billsmore Green, Elmdon.
The council-funded Solihull Music Service (SMS) teaches more than 5,000 young people every week.
The service has held its end-of-term concerts at the social club for nearly 15 years.
Head of the service Richard Jones says losing the club would be ‘devastating’ as there would be nowhere else affordable to hold concerts.
It is is understood the car manufacturer wants to build a staff car park on the playing fields.
The social club’s lease on the pitches is expected to be revoked in 12 months.
And the whole site – including the club house where SMS holds concerts – is likely to be reclaimed by the company by 2022.
But bosses fear the club could close before this as it is reliant on money generated from the sports teams using its playing fields.
The site has been a community hub for Elmdon residents for more than 45 years.
Mr Jones told us: “This proposed closure would be another nail in the coffin for our young musicians and the very fabric that makes Solihull special.
“SMS has a long-standing relationship with the club and it is invaluable in giving Solihull pupils a performance space which is liked by pupils and parents who come and watch.
“The club is a very rare space for music as it is big enough to host our string groups and wind bands and importantly is affordable for us to hire, which means the cost passed onto parents is minimal making the concert accessible to all.
“The venue is safe for our pupils, and allows pupils from different backgrounds and schools to mix which helps break down social barriers.
“This venue would be a huge loss to the musical community of Solihull and we would be a poorer borough without it.”
Almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition against Jaguar Land Rover’s plans.
And social club bosses have called on Sport England and the FA to protect its pitches.
We spoke to Solihull Moors youth and under-threat Olton Ravens Football Club who slammed the loss of the vital playing surfaces.
The club says it has more than 3,500 members – about 3,000 of which are workers or former workers at the Lode Lane factory.
A JLR released a slightly altered statement on Friday (June 28): “In June last year we confirmed JLR would be investing in its Solihull plant, securing jobs and supporting the local economy to create the home of the next generation Range Rover.
“To enable this critical investment in all-new flexible vehicle architecture, the plant will undergo significant technology upgrades, including the development of new on-site staff facilities.
“Having explored all other options, JLR has served notice to the Land Rover Sports and Social Club (LRSSC) of their intention to end the licence of a part of the LRSSC sports field in 12 months to enable this plant development.
“JLR has advised the management of the LRSSC that it is unlikely that the current lease will be renewed when it expires in 2022.
“JLR is working closely with the LRSSC, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and relevant parties to ensure a smooth transition and where possible, identify alternative provision for the teams that use the facility.
“More information will be available towards the end of August.”