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Future bleak for Canterbury City Football Club if stadium plans rejected

By Gerry Warren

Canterbury City Football Club could face complete collapse if plans for a new stadium are shown a red card by the city council.

That is the fear of club chairman Tim Clark who says the proposed new facilities at Highland Court at Bridge are essential to its survival.

The club, which formerly played at Kingsmead Stadium, has led a nomadic existence in recent years, ground-sharing with other east Kent sides.

Jack Lowe, Dave Durell and David Humphries show opposition to the proposals at the consultation into the Highland Farm development
Jack Lowe, Dave Durell and David Humphries show opposition to the proposals at the consultation into the Highland Farm development

But it hopes a sporting ‘super hub’ at the proposed development - which would provide modern new facilities for both the club and Canterbury Rugby Club - will ensure its long term future.

Mr Clark said: “This is our 11th year without our own home. If we don’t get this site, then I can’t see the club surviving.”

But the scheme by Quinn Estates, which includes building 175 holiday homes, a business park and leisure and retail units, is in an area of outstanding natural beauty and sparked considerable opposition.

The developer has already downscaled the project, which had previously included a retirement village, but it still faces the wrath of the Barham Downs Action Group which is against any development in the AONB.

And members made their feelings know at public consultations in Bridge and Bekesbourne at the weekend.

But Mr Clark hopes the city council will be supportive when a formal planning application is submitted in May.

Peter Rothwell discusses the development with Huw Evans and Tim Chilvers of Quinn Estates at the consultation
Peter Rothwell discusses the development with Huw Evans and Tim Chilvers of Quinn Estates at the consultation

He says it is make or break for the football club which also stands to lose £500,000 if the scheme is rejected.

The money was ring-fenced when the club’s old site at Kingsmead was sold for development in 2001. But under the so-called Section 106 agreement with the developer, it has to be used for new football facilities by October next year or given back.

“If that happened it would be quite farcical but also tragic,” said Mr Clark.

“The club has previously had two abortive attempts to find a new ground but now has a real chance for state-of-art sporting facilities.

“Yes, there was clearly some opposition at the public consultations but also some support too.

“With other funding, we have £1.6 million to invest but just need the right site which is now being offered to us. It would be a huge boost for the club and Canterbury and allow us to grow and improve.

Artists impression of rugby pitches
Artists impression of rugby pitches

“We have architects working on the designs for a new clubhouse and it will look amazing.”

The club currently grounds shares with Deal and has just signed an arrangement for next season with Faversham.

Mr Clark said: “But it can’t go on like that and if we don’t get these new facilities, we don’t have a plan B.”

Canterbury City FC were playing in the Kent League when it left Kingsmead, a move which saw the club collapse. Re-born in 2007, it started climbing back up the football pyramid and is now in the Southern Counties East League Premier Division - previously known as the Kent League - playing alongside the likes of neighbouring Whitstable.

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