Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ground given Go-ahead

Bristol City Council have voted in favour of the planning application for the development of Gloucestershire County Cricket Ground - despite it being "shot with holes".

After much discussion, the plans were passed by five votes to three and Gloucestershire's ambitions to transform Nevil Road into a proper international cricket venue can become reality.

The consensus among councillors was that the ground provided significant benefits to Bristol but there were objections to the application, particularly surrounding the scale of the proposed student accommodation, with Councillor Anthony Negus (Cotham, Lib Dem.) describing the plans as being "shot with holes".

Cllr Negus had serious reservations over the height of the student accommodation. "I am a conservation architect. We're making serious concessions on two grade listed buildings. I'm very worried," he said.

Overall though, councillors accepted the need for the development for the benefit of Bristol. "What is Bristol about? Having major sporting facilities is what makes Bristol, Bristol," said Cllr Steve Comer (Eastville, Lib Dem.) "We want to encourage kids to play sport. You can't do that with a development at Cribbs Causeway."

Cllr Jay Jethwa (Stockwood, Con.) recognised the need for development for the club and the city. "Bristol lacks up to date sporting facilities. I fully sympathise with local residents but there is a desperate need to update this cricket ground," she said.

With plans approved, it will be a final opportunity for fans of the Mound stand to take their seats - the stands adjacent to the City of Bristol college will form phase one of the development with building set to commence at the end of the coming season.

Phase two will see the pavilion end developed at the close of 2011 with the whole project set for completion by the end of 2012.

So how will Gloucestershire cope until 2014 without any international cricket (save this year's Bangladesh match) and mounting debt? The chances of squad development will be almost non-existent, with the possibilities of holding onto to sought-after players becoming slimmer. It may well be things have to get worse before they can get better.

Worse indeed, because a large debt will need to be serviced long into the future - something that is said to be preventing many clubs from major investment in their playing staff. It will be some years before the Gloucestershire accounts show a surplus once more, so how can success on the field be nurtured during this period?

What Gloucestershire can now do is sell the future. Nevil Road is secure and the prospects of vastly improved cricketing facilities, corporate entertainment and spectator comfort can be used to improve not only the club's balance sheet but the commitment to the actual cricket club also.

Could this be the beginning a new era for a forward-thinking Gloucestershire CCC?

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