Thurrock Hammers Campaign Progress Report October 2019

Progress may be slow, but it is undoubtedly steady as the Thurrock Hammers continue their campaign to return speedway to Thurrock.

As many fans will already know from reports on the club’s website and social media accounts, the Hammers management team has submitted a detailed and comprehensive objection to the planning application lodged with Thurrock Council by the new owners of the Arena Essex Raceway.

Last month’s submission of that objection lead to the club’s directors and representatives being invited to attend a face to face meeting with Andy Millard, Interim Director of Place, Thurrock Council, and  Leigh Nicholson, Assistant Director – Planning, Transport and Public Protection to discuss the reasoning behind our objection and hear our future plans. The meeting took place on Monday 14th October at the Civic Offices in Grays.

The meeting was productive and resulted in us receiving a written assurance that the application made by the developer (London Strategic Land) will be assessed against the Council’s Development Plan, taking into account all other material considerations as relevant, including the (NPPF) National Planning Policy Framework”.

We were advised, however, that where a proposal conflicts with policies within the Development Plan, the decision maker is required to carry out a balancing exercise between the harm that would be caused through the policy conflict and the benefits of the scheme”.

As far as we are concerned, we understand that amongst many other matters for consideration including the impact of this significant development on Highways, the Environment and Air Quality, members of the Council Planning Committee will have to decide whether the permanent loss of the borough’s speedway amenity is mitigated, or satisfied, by the developer’s offer of a Lido and Bike Trail on the Arena Essex Raceway site.

We believe that the loss of the borough’s most popular spectator sport and the suggestion that it should be replaced with a lido and a bike trail is unacceptable and that in line with national policies and the Council’s own policies, facilitation for speedway’s return to Thurrock should be a key condition of any  planning  approval.

Thurrock Hammers is calling on Thurrock Council to adopt and support our vision for the construction of multi-use facility that can provide sports, education and community leisure provision and, as a growing borough of more than 175,000 people,  we believe that its residents deserve state of the art facilities.

We have a new land use plan and our plans for the future include a number of features to add value to the local community.

Our vision includes maximising a track and associated facilities seven days a week, with the aim of providing a range of services and solutions for the local community. 

This may include use of the centre green for 5G pitches (for example; football, netball) &/or a community adventure playground, through to buildings primarily for local community use (e.g. a gym and a Crèche), to function rooms available for local clubs to use.

From a speedway perspective, along with delivering a top class sporting facility, we propose to supplement local education services by running [speedway] engineering courses for 14 – 17 year olds and to work with existing programmes such as the No Limits programme, to develop a Southern based Speedway Academy, covering all aspects of the sport (from engineering to media, nutrition to set ups). 

We also see the potential to expand this offering to other local community sports to maximise the use of both the facilities and the specific expertise available.

The club was advised that London Strategic Land’s planning application still needs to clear some important hurdles, but that it is feasible that the application might be put before the Planning Committee as early as January 2020.  

This relatively short timescale means that the club must continue making urgent and regular representations to local officials, including councillors with direct responsibility for planning decisions, over the coming weeks.

We are calling on everyone to work with us to engage with the democratic process to try to ensure that the Council’s Planning Committee properly represent the views of the many thousands who support our campaign.

Anyone keen to assist with our aim to return speedway to Thurrock, can do so in a variety of ways viz:

a) Direct engagement with Thurrock Councillors via email, letter or phone shown here.

b) You can add your name and comments to the 3500 + submissions that are already on our on line petition here

c) Engagement with the Planning Team at Thurrock Council.  You can write to the Planning Department here or submit an online statement about the Planning Application here. (note – this is the planning application itself)

Andy Millard – Head of Planning can be contacted here

d) Sharing /Liking Social Media posts

The Hammers are in regular contact with the ‘Save Coventry Speedway’ Campaign and we were very encouraged to read of Rugby Council’s response to a recent consultation document. Although our circumstances differ in many ways, both campaigns are relying on maximising and using planning frameworks and policies to ensure that speedway can return to two very important and traditional locations.

We are in dialogue with the BSPA (British Speedway Promoters Association) who we understand have made significant representations to, and progress with, key officials at Sport England which, as a Statutory Consultee Body, have significant influence on all major planning applications that impact on sporting provision.

It is our intention to arrange a Thurrock Hammers Support Forum at a location in Thurrock in the next 2-3 months to explain progress and gauge ongoing support. Details will follow when available.

Thank You for your continued support.

Thurrock Hammers Ltd