Published: 06:00, 23 January 2020
Ambitious plans for a first-class standard cricket pitch on the Isle of Sheppey are being discussed.
Steve Chalke, who founded the Oasis Charitable Trust, has confirmed the Oasis Academy wants part of its Minster campus developed into a state-of-the-art centre for the sport.
He told a meeting of the Sheppey Development Forum on Tuesday : "It was always originally planned to have a cricket pitch on the Minster campus but it was never developed.
"Now we have a chance to make this happen. This could rival Kent's Spitfire Ground at Canterbury and could see county-standard games on the Island. That would be a really big win."
The forum was founded 18 months ago to boost Sheppey's image in a bid to encourage more professionals to live and work on the Island.
Mr Chalke said: "The success of the academy is intrinsically linked with the success of the Island and vice-versa. We must all work together to restore pride in Sheppey."
Neil Hosken, founder of the Swale Cricket Trust and chief executive of Minster Cricket Club which is based at Chequers and has teams in the Kent Cricket League, said: "There hasn't been competitive cricket played at that school for more than a decade. It would be brilliant to encourage it.
"Part of the site was originally designed for a cricket pitch with 65m boundaries. It has state-of-the-art drainage and has had 10 or 11 years to settle. With some investment, time and energy it would be the perfect location.”
"It would need changing rooms and fencing but that is something to work on. A facility like this could be used for the school during the week and other teams across Swale at weekends for festivals and competitive matches.
"It could match facilities not normally seen outside public schools. We are in danger of losing junior local cricket. Something needs to be done to defibrilate it."
Mr Chalke said: "A cricket pitch of this standard could help drive visitors and businesses to the Island. But the next question is where will people eat or stay when they visit Sheppey?
“We need a larger hotel and a better selection of restaurants. A rising tide floats all boats. That has to be our goal.”
He still has his sights set on investing £1 million to upgrade Swale council’s Masters House in Sheerness, currently home to Sheerness Town Council.
He insisted: “I am sure the council could have space there if it wanted.”
He said calls to the town council had not been returned but talks with Swale council, which owns the building, had been positive.
There has also been talk of turning the former Sheerness Naval Dockyard hospital into a hotel.
The derelict premises are owned by Peel Ports which runs Sheerness Docks.