I met with NWL's head of asset protection a few months back to discuss the pipe. The pipe is a 39" high pressure raw water main of steel construction, running from north west to south east across the pitch. It's the same pipe that Reynolds paid to have diverted around the Arena. You can see the location easily enough if you go onto Google Earth and draw a straight line between the two manhole covers.
To give you an idea of the hazard these pipes can pose, here's a video of a pipe bursting in Ukraine:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO0aHS7JO1Y
This was one of a few videos I was shown during the meeting, and whilst I can't remember the exact dimensions that were quoted, I do remember that the pipe in the video was of significantly smaller size/pressure than the one at BM.
Understandably, NWL get nervous about development in the vicinity of these pipes, and enforce a 6m development stand off (easement) either side of the pipe. This is also to guarantee access should they need to excavate the pipe and make emergency repairs. The construction of football stands gives them particular concern due to the compression/vibrations that can be exerted on the ground by a large group of people jumping up and down at the same time. In short, building anything resembling a stand within the easement is a non-starter.
My next question was what it would cost to have the pipe diverted. The answer is that it would be upwards of £800,000. The bulk of this cost doesn't come from the laying of new pipe, but rather the cost of stopping the flow and putting in a temporary diversion. Again, a complete non-starter. They won't do it for free and we'd be able to buy a sizeable chunk of land elsewhere in Darlington for that sort of money.
So, if we're to stay on the BM first team pitch for the forseeable future, this leaves two options:
1) Work around the pipe easement.
2) Remove the mound at the western end of the pitch, reconfigure the manhole cover, and move the pitch c.12m south-west so that the pitch perimeter fence is flush to the new manhole cover (which would be raised above ground level due to the presence of an air valve protruding upwards from the pipe).
The current thinking re. Option 2 is that whilst it would deliver some cosmetic benefit, it would not represent value for money in terms of increasing the amount of land available around the pitch as we look to increase capacity for Ground Grading/FL Membership requirements. The main cost associated with this option would be uprooting the Tin Shed roof and moving it either slightly west with the pitch or to another part of the ground. Not ruling it out entirely, but it currently seems unlikely that this would represent the best way forward. In any case, it's far from certain that RFC would agree to it as the clubhouse position would be less central relative to the pitch.
Regarding the obviously desirable cosmetic benefit, NWL have indicated to me in informal discussions that they would be willing to consider the construction of a roof that spans the easement provided that it wasn't founded within the easement nor restrict access to the pipe (i.e. have large access gates on the back of the structure). However, we've got to make the numbers work before we start thinking about cosmetics.