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Residents air fears over cricket ground plans

CLOSE INSPECTION: Local residents look at the proposals in detail
CLOSE INSPECTION: Local residents look at the proposals in detail

PLANS for the ambitious redevelopment of the St Lawrence cricket ground in Canterbury have prompted a variety of concerns from people living in the area.

Hundreds of residents poured over the drawings, which went on show in the Chiesman Pavilion, and recorded their comments on questionaire forms.

The £7 million scheme involves selling off the field opposite the Bat and Ball and a plot of land at the top of the main drive to developers to build nearly 70 homes.

It includes the development of a 120-bed hotel, a health and fitness centre, conference centre, shops, a cricket museum and the refurbishment of the pavilions and stands.

The aim of the redevelopment is to secure the financial future of the county cricket club which is £310,000 in debt.

But concerns about the plans ranged from increased traffic congestion in Old Dover Road to the potential loss of privacy and amenity of neighbours caused by the new housing.

Most visitors to the exhibition accepted the redevelopment of the site was inevitable but were concerned about its scale and impact.

Garry Barker, of St Lawrence Forstal, a Kent cricket club member, said the plan did not show any evidence of joined-up thinking by the club, as it involved demolishing the groundsman’s cottage and practice nets, both of which had only recently been built.

He questioned the demand for a hotel on the scale proposed, given that a hotel in nearby New Dover Road had recently been replaced with housing.

“There is no guarantee that any of the shops – or indeed any of the buildings shown on the outline drawings – will ever be built.

“It is more likely that there will be lots of houses and flats, a hotel, a fitness centre, and that’s it. The shops and other 'sops’ for nearby residents will be quietly dropped.

“Once the cricket club sells the Bat and Ball field, it loses control over what is built there. No matter what the cricket club tells us, the buyers of the land will have different ideas.

“At the exhibition, the architect, Andrew Clague said one gain for nearby residents would be a pharmacy, included in the proposed shops complex.

"When there’s a huge increase in traffic in our quiet cul-de-sac, and when my secluded house and garden which faces the Bat and Ball field is overlooked by rows of houses and flats, I’m going to be in need of an Aspirin or two. But I’m willing to bet that no pharmacy is ever built.”

Rob and Kim Young, who also live in St Lawrence Forstal, said: “We can see the need for the redevelopment but we are concerned that there appears to be an over-development of homes which will overlook our property.”

Geoff Brittain, of Nackington Court, added: “I am concerned about both the visual impact and the congestion in Old Dover Road which is already bad. It’s going to be a bit of an urban jungle.”

Michael Steed, of the Oaten Hill Society, said he was also worried about increased traffic congestion around the ground which would be generated by the new homes and hotel.

He said the planners’ traffic forecasts were 'unconvincing’ and thought the hotel was in the wrong place because it obscured the familiar and pleasant view into the cricket ground from the road.

But he welcomed the plan for shops which he said might help serve residents of south Canterbury who currently have to walk or drive into the city.

The cricket club says it will analyse the feedback from residents before submitting a formal planning application to Canterbury City Council.

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