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Dartford Cricket Club's new £1m pavilion proves a hit despite Labour question marks

Dartford Cricket Club has seen a huge increase in members since the opening of its new pavilion last year.

The building, which has just enjoyed its second summer in operation, was subject to the council’s latest scrutiny committee to debate whether the £1 million investment had been worthwhile, with committee chairman Cllr Jonathon Hawkes (Lab) dissatisfied over the perceived “lack of measurable outcomes for the council’s significant investment in the new pavilion”.

Speaking after the meeting, DCC chairman Jim Lowrie launched a staunch defence of the redevelopment, which has proved popular with cricketers and the wider community.

Cricket action from Hesketh Park, Dartford
Cricket action from Hesketh Park, Dartford

He said: “The participation numbers for us as a club have increased massively.

“When I took over four or five years ago we had 80 juniors and now we have 150. We’ve gone from three Saturday sides to five. We have two Sunday sides when before we had one. We have nine or 10 junior teams compared to five or six.

“What we have to remember is that the club didn’t want a new pavilion because we didn’t like the old one. The council had condemned it and it would probably have fallen down.

"If we hadn’t rebuilt it we would have been left with no ground and our club is one of the oldest in the country" Jim Lowrie

"If we hadn’t rebuilt it we would have been left with no ground and our club is one of the oldest in the country. The pavilion doesn’t make the club, but it’s an important part of the jigsaw.”

DCC lease the pavilion from the council and is left to handle the day-to-day running of the club.

Council cabinet members had to discuss Cllr Hawkes’ concerns at a meeting at Dartford Civic Centre last Thursday, where council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con) criticised his opponent for being “critical of investment in facilities”.

He said: “The cricket club is hundreds of years old. The pavilion was falling apart and the only decision the council had to make is whether it’s going to invest in sport or not.

“The decision was a simple one and it’s proved to be the right one. It’s really odd that the council is being criticised for investing in facilities.”

Cllr Hawkes, leader of Dartford Labour, said: “It’s absolutely right that when the council has spent £1m of taxpayers’ money, councillors should seek assurances that the community as a whole is benefiting. I am alarmed that the council currently has nothing in place to measure if this investment has led to greater participation in sport across the community.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson's 2016 charity cricket match
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson's 2016 charity cricket match

“Cllr Kite should make clear why he is so opposed to councillors seeking to ensure taxpayers receive value for money.”

Among the “measurable outcomes” Cllr Hawkes called for were the number of residents using the pavilion, broken down by age and gender, its provision of community health programmes and its contribution to reducing obesity levels.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson (Con), who holds an annual charity cricket match at the club, was keen to defend the amount of money spent on the pavilion.

Mr Johnson said: “The new pavilion is a brilliant asset. The club carries out fantastic work with local youth teams and charities and has seen a sharp increase in sporting participation rates since it was built.

“The pavilion provides a base for a cycle club, a running club and the St John Ambulance so it is disappointing that Dartford Labour is trying to politicise it. They make a lot of noise about local obesity figures and yet undermine sporting provision. It’s bizarre.”

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