Plans for a “global horse academy” have been unveiled at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, following news that the 800-acre showground will not be sold, as was rumoured.

Four years ago, the park’s owner of 19 years, the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), announced plans for a national equestrian centre, as part of a centre of rural excellence on the site costing a projected £100million to build.

“But a clause in the contract drawn up when RASE purchased Stoneleigh Park from the previous owners, the Leigh Family Trustees, prevented consent for planning — the park had to remain an agricultural showground,” said RASE chief executive John Moverley.

Now the issue has been resolved, and the plans are being progressed.

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF), together with regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM), is looking at developing a top-level competition venue at Stoneleigh, capable of bidding to host the World Equestrian Games in 2014.

“We have given outline approval for £12m funding for the park, and are expecting a lot of the funding to come from the private sector, too,” said Ian Edwards, head of rural partnerships at AWM.

With local equine college Moreton Morrell and Avon Vale vet practice expressing an interest in moving to the park, the BEF hopes the academy will become a facility for professional training and development, a research and veterinary centre and competition venue.

John Moverley told H&H: “We’ve put our weight behind the equine project. Wembley is a home for football, so why not Stoneleigh as the home of the horse?” H&H

Read this news story in full in today’s Horse & Hound (16 August, ’07)