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Kent members back St Lawrence redevelopment plans

Kent members have voted for major changes at their Canterbury headquarters
Kent members have voted for major changes at their Canterbury headquarters

A VOCIFEROUS special general meeting of Kent Cricket Club members voted on Monday night to back the club's £10m scheme to redevelop their St Lawrence headquarters in Canterbury.

Some 3,700 members were entitled to vote and 1,797 took the opportunity so to do, though 30 votes were spoiled and considered invalid.

Emotions and feelings ran high amongst the 200 members present at the Ashford International Hotel but, despite the pros and cons of the plans, the members' ballot came down to a straight yes or no vote giving the county's general committee permission to sell or lease four distinct plots of land; two plots are to be sold for 73 new homes, another area leased for a 130-bed hotel and a fourth plot leased for a spa and leisure complex.

In announcing the outcome and the breakdown of the vote, Mr Peter Morgan from Messrs Girlings Solicitors of Canterbury, told the meeting that 1,347 members voted for the resolution and 418 against - a 76 per cent to 24 per cent split in favour of the scheme.

Club chairman Carl Openshaw said afterwards: "I would like to take the opportunity to thank our management team, our committee members and advisors who have already put in a lot of hard work to date on the project.

"Can I also thank you the members for your support of these proposals. I am very much aware that a number of members would prefer St Lawrence to remain as it is, but I don't think that was an option.

"I think it is clear from the result of the vote that the vast majority of members recognise the need for change and that they have endorsed our plans for the future."

During a two hour debate, Kent's chairman, chief executive, president and honorary treasurer took questions from the floor concerning the club's business plan, ability to manage the project, car parking, servicing their borrowing, the size and placement of the planned hotel and traffic management.

One member, Ben Moorhead from Wye, described the plans as "Environmental mutilation for perceived short-term financial gain.

“You are playing Monopoly; but not building hotels on Park Lane, Mayfair or even the Old Kent Road, you are slapping a modern excrescence in the middle of a heritage sight.”

However, his view was countered by Kent's honorary curator David Robertson, a member since 1948, who spoke of buildings in "dire need of substantial improvement" and the need to "keep Kent cricket in Canterbury, the ground that has been our spiritual home since 1847."

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