Tuesday, 28 June 2011

New ground redevelopment plans...what is going on?

We'll be straight with you, the Jessop Tavern View does not know how to run a county cricket club. We don't really understand how the counties are funded by the ECB, or how they raise money themselves. We do know that Gloucestershire are convinced that the only chance for their long term survival is to redevelop the county ground down at Bristol and to continue to bring in international matches.

Yesterday the club submitted its proposed plans for one part of the ground redevelopment, new flats! Actually, this is the only part of the ground redevelopment that will be going ahead.

"GCCC has now decided to implement only one part of their planning application - for the foreseeable future they will not be building the stands adjacent to Kennington Avenue.  This will result in a capacity of circa 17,500, rather than the 20,000 originally envisaged, of which circa 7,500 will be permanent. This compares to the previous scheme which proposed 18,500 permanent seats."

When Gloucestershire were initially granted planning permission to redevelop the ground these were the stated aims
 Now we are being told that we are implementing only one part of the planning permission for the foreseeable future.

Does that mean no world class media centre? No conference of hospitality? No swimming pool!!??

From this press release we are trying to piece together exactly what is going to happen. We think that some new seating is going to be built as the permanent seating seems to be increasing from 4000 to 7500. But is that really it?

Unsurprisingly we have also had to ditch the student accommodation in favour of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments due to complaints from the neighbours about the proposal of dumping 350 students on their doorsteps. It seems remarkable that only now have we realised that the neighbours aren't too happy, and that we are having to resubmit new plans. Surely this was the first step when we were looking at redeveloping the ground? Did we not consult the locals then about the plans for student accommodation?

Whilst we understand the need for the club to obtain income from housing development in order to fund ground developments, we just question the decision making that is taking place and the impact that this will have on the speed with which these developments will happen. If we are to believe the threats, then Gloucestershire will start to lose international cricket if developments are not made to our facilities soon. Therefore we can only presume that having to resubmit new plans, due to an error in judgement over the student accommodation, is going to move back any development to the ground. With an increasing number of grounds now able to accommodate international cricket we must really be holding on to international fixtures with our fingertips at the moment. Kaiser Tom Richardson stated after the weekend's 20-20 international that

“We are pleased with how everything went. What was emphasised was how important it is to press ahead with our ground development plans because we want to offer better facilities including better spectator and member facilities, bigger corporate hospitality rooms and a better positioned press box.
“If we don’t develop the ground we will lose this sort of fixture. It’s as simple as that.”

So what are the implications of only pursuing one part of our planning application and presumably neglecting the other parts for the foreseeable future. This doesn't seem to make sense.

The final question is regarding exactly what these changes to our plans say about our vision. What exactly are we trying to achieve for the ground? Do we really see all these incredibly expensive redevelopments as worth the cost for one international match a summer? Realistically we are never going to become a test match venue like the Rose Bowl has become, or the Swalec Stadium. Would we not be better off shifting our intentions?

By all means build these flats, improve conference facilities and dig a swimming pool. Bringing in money from outside of cricket is important. But shouldn't we be reevaluating where we invest this money? Couldn't we invest this money into the cricket? We have been extremely fortunate this season to have the youngsters from the academy really step up to the plate. But it could have been very different. In an excellent article on cricinfo a few months back Glamorgan chairman Paul Russell had this to say:

Just imagine how Russell would have felt if Glamorgan had conceded 496 runs in a 40 over match!
As we said at the start, we don't understand how to run a county cricket club. We just know that it would feel a lot better if we invested in the actual cricket and got fans in on a consistent basis to watch a successful Gloucestershire rather than relying on selling out one international match every summer.

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