Vital backing for Hammers Campaign

The Hammers are delighted to report that, following the full Thurrock Council Cabinet meeting which took place on the 27th January 2021, senior members of Thurrock Council have, once again, demonstrated their long standing and consistent support for speedway in the borough,  and confirmed their wish to see the Hammers return to the track in Thurrock racing in new speedway facilities.

As supporters are only too painfully aware, the Hammers home track at the Arena Essex Raceway has been closed since the sale of the property, for housing development, in 2018.

Thurrock Council policies require replacement facilities to be established where sporting facilities are to be lost as a result of development and we have been pressing the Council to apply these policies to ensure that new Speedway facilities are established as a condition of any planning permission for the Arena Essex site for more than a year.

We are indebted on this occasion to Cllr John Kent who, having taken the time and interest to meet (virtually of course) with Mark Sexton and Brian Connolly before Christmas asked Cllr. Mark Coxshall, the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Strategic Planning, about the status of the planning application for the Arena Essex site submitted by its current owner London Strategic Land (LSL) in November of 2018.

We are encouraged by Councillor Coxshall’s answers and the wish expressed that ‘the sooner the Thurrock Hammers get back the better’.

The full exchange can be viewed below.

Cllr. Coxshall, a frequent visitor to the track in the past, was keen to make clear that LSL should make sure that the relevant Council Planning Policies are satisfied (especially CSTP9), and that the current owner of Arena Essex, to quote, needs to be in negotiations with the Thurrock Hammers to make sure that that is part of their application’.

This is wholly consistent with our September 2019 objection to the Arena Essex planning application and we are particularly encouraged by this first official public acknowledgement that the establishment of replacement facilities should be part of the Arena Essex planning application.

We are on the case (and have been throughout).

We view this confirmation as extremely significant and, in the light of the indication that a decision on the planning application might be made this summer, look forward to discussing our plans and other opportunities with LSL and the planning team at Thurrock Council in the very near future.

A transcript can be viewed below, whilst the entire Thurrock Council Cabinet meeting can be seen here

Our objection dated September 2019 to the Planning Application can be viewed here

Video transcript:

Basic transcription of Cabinet Meeting exchange between Cllr John Kent and Cllr Mark Coxshall. (PH)

JK: When does the portfolio holder expect planning application 18/1671/FUL in respect of the land at Arena Essex to be determined?

MC: Thank you. The application was submitted in November 2018 and during 2019 the statutory consultees confirmed they had no objections with the exception of Highways England who required transport modelling to be undertaken. Once this is completed, we are still waiting for it to be completed as I understand from the applicant, we will consult with Highways England and hopefully they will lift their objection. As this process draws to a close and Highways England lift their objection, I understand the planning committee will determine the application by the summer of this year.

JK: That’s helpful. The portfolio holder will be more than aware that as a result of the change of ownership of the land there the Lakeside Hammers speedway club have lost their home. Will the PH undertake to push for LH to be rehomed within the borough as part of this application?

MC: I would… as you know, I was a regular visitor, maybe you didn’t, to the Lakeside Hammers, and I was honoured to be there on their last night, we were there, it is really important, it was the premier team regularly on sky news, sky sports. I am disappointed we cant (muffled) there… the local planning team and I have met with Thurrock Hammers on numerous occasions over the last few years to encourage them to get involved with preparation of the new local plan and look for new opportunities for a new venue in Thurrock and if the application of Arena Essex is successful I really do hope they find a new venue. It is very difficult, obviously quite a few people upset, it is very noisy to the people around there and I think LH have realised that, but I want them to stay in Thurrock and I’m hoping we can make sure they do stay here. The sooner Thurrock Hammers can get back the better.

JK: Yep again that’s helpful, the PH will be more than aware of current planning policy, particularly policy PMD5 and CSTP9 – not losing sports clubs where development happens – particularly CSTP9 says to only allow the loss of a particular facility where appropriate provision can be made elsewhere. Does the PH believe that would give members of the planning committee enough cover to refuse a planning application for Arena Essex if it doesn’t take into consideration the future of the LH?

MC: You’re getting into a planning committee conversation which I would not want to get into a point of law and that’s a quasi-judicial point. I am not going to venture that far … but the applicant needs…. to be in negotiation with the LH or TH, now, to make sure that is part of their application whether that’s financial or planning.

Image credit: Rob Newell