Hammers 2020 Review

It goes without saying that 2020 has been the most challenging and depressing year in living memory so, on behalf of us here at the ‘Hammers’, we hope that you and your families are keeping well.  If there is any way that we can help, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Despite everything, however, the drive to return our favourite sport to Essex is still our focus and we’d like to bring you up to date with the progress of our campaign, our association with the Eastbourne promotion and our recent meeting vs Crayford.

The Campaign

Although the Raceway Tavern is being demolished, the campaign itself isn’t anywhere close to drinking in the last chance saloon.

However, the activity at the Raceway reminds us that we need to be vigilant. As we have stated in the past, we are using planning policies, national frameworks and recent local council decisions as the basis of our argument that the developer should be required to replace the sporting facilities lost.

The pandemic and concerns about the proposed development’s impact on traffic seem to have put the brakes on much of the application process and, from our perspective, it has been challenging to connect with local politicians and decision makers during 2020.  

Despite these obstacles, we are still ‘knocking on doors’ and doing everything we can think of to make our voice heard and present our case.

We are keeping a very close eye on Thurrock Council and their Full Council and Planning Committee meetings.

It is enormously frustrating for us to ‘see’ the Arena Essex site locked up and unused for its primary purpose.

An application to construct a temporary car park and related amenities on the site of the old bangers & stocks car park has been submitted.

That situation won’t move the underlying application by London Strategic Land any further forward but the situation at the Arena is obviously at the forefront of the Council’s thinking.

Details of the new application can be found on the planning applications section of The Thurrock Council website here (planning reference: 20/01257/FUL)

The number of signatures on our online petition has just ticked over 3,900.

We have also received over 1,900 comments, which all show how much our sport is missed and the desire to see the return of the Hammers to Thurrock.

The more on-line support we can garner the better and our target number remains 5,000 signatures.

Our thanks to everyone who has signed or left a comment. If you haven’t yet added your name to the petition, can we please ask that you do so, and leave a comment if possible. Please click on the image below to launch the i-petition.

We are refining our proposal to the Council and are now in the process of seeking approval and support through the Council officials for which we seek a number of specific points.

If we are unable to establish our requirements it may be necessary to make local councillors aware about the depth of feeling that exists about the potentially permanent loss of speedway to the borough and the support for our proposals.

We will lobby all Councillors but in the context of the democratic functions it is important to consider the fact that 17 councillors are up for re-election in 2021 and that they want votes.

The names of all the ward councillors are a matter of public record (www.thurrock.gov.uk) but contacting members of the Planning Committee may prove to be especially important if and when the time comes.

Please check here for their details. Email is usually an effective means of contacting members of the Council quickly and by volume but sending letters also works.

Mark, and Brian Connolly our planning consultant, recently attended an online conference which provided us with additional information about medium and longer-term plans for the region and we’re now in contact with more people who are pivotal to the growth and development of the economy across the Thames Estuary.

We must do everything we can to let people know we are ‘still here’ and that we’re not going away. Please help us if you can by sharing, liking and commenting on our social media posts.

Eastbourne Seagulls

Alongside our resolve to get the club ‘back home’, we are also determined to keep the Hammers name on track.

We had ambitious plans for 2020 that would have built on the two National League standard challenges raced in 2019 but, understandably, those plans were scuppered in numerous ways.

The BSPL decision not to allow nomadic teams to compete in the MSDL meant that we could not race at Eastbourne as the Thurrock Hammers, so we were delighted to accept the offer from Eastbourne Director Ian Jordan, to manage and sponsor his new Eastbourne Seagulls team.

Although we haven’t been able to race under the Seagulls banner in 2020, we are committed to the Arlington based team for next season, under the name: The Eastbourne Seagulls Powered by Save Thurrock Hammers Speedway.

Covid restrictions permitting, the Seagulls squad of Nick Laurence, James Jessop, James Laker, Josh Warren, Eli Meadows and Cesca Wright will spend the winter working on their fitness and practising where possible and Russ will be working the phones to help build our sponsor base.

Ian will ensure that all the Seagulls get more than their fair share of publicity as well as keeping our campaign firmly in the public domain via our various social media platforms.

You can learn more about The Seagulls squad here.

Crayford Kestrels vs Thurrock Hammers

L-R James Jessop, James Laker, Eli Meadows, Nick Laurence, Josh Warren, Cesca Wright, Rhys Laker, Jack Kingston

It was an absolute pleasure to have the chance to actually race in 2020! There are many clubs and riders who haven’t had the opportunity to get on track at all so going to Lydd for a behind closed doors meeting on Sunday 18th October was brilliant.

On track, the 6 Seagulls were finally able to get together as a unit and the match also provided the opportunity for us to include two riders with Hammers links in Rhys Laker and Jack Kingston.

Although the result didn’t go our way (the 20-heat match ended 69-51 to the home side), the positives far outweighed the negatives.

Reports and pictures are widely available on our website here and elsewhere including the Speedway Star, and via the Crayford Photographer Kevin Whiting on Facebook here.

Cesca Wright was also the subject of a feature on Meridian TV (thanks to Ken Burnett at T2TV for his assistance) so the day gave us, and our campaign, some great publicity. Thanks are also due, once again, to Clive Purdy from Devines Accountants for his generous sponsorship and to Mark Shipman at Crayford Kestrels for the invite.

The Hammers top scorer Jack Kingston

Vision for the Future

Our plan is to establish new facilities that not only to return the sport to the area but also to establish new forms of community engagement.

We believe we will create added value through the planning process and confident that we can be a catalyst for change.

Although speedway would be the cornerstone, a new facility would benefit the wider community by being open for as many of the 365 days a year as possible and support a range of events and causes.  

However, we will need all the support we can get. As the country emerges from the pandemic and a ‘new normal’ becomes clearer, there will be more than enough competition for investment and construction.

We appreciate all the help and encouragement that we’ve received so far but we’ve not met our goals yet so, with your help, we will keep going. Please contact any of us (Mark, Russ or Ian) here if you have any ideas, questions or need support.

Thankyou – Up The Hammers

Mark, Russ & Ian.