Hopes that Grays Ath may find home at Ship Lane

HOPES that Grays Athletic might be able to make their new home at Ship Lane in Aveley, former home of Thurrock FC, have been given a boost with news that Sport England has now lent its support to the development of the site and a contribution to playing fields elsewhere in Aveley reports Thurrock Nub News.

And there has also been some positive movement from Highways England, a statutory consultee on the development which involves creating a car preparation plants on swathes of the existing site currently occupied by youth pitches.

Group 1 Automotive had offered to buy the site at Ship Lane from its former owners for around £3 million and were proposing to convert its grass pitch into an artificial one and gift it to the local community to replace the lost pitches that have been used by youth football teams to the west of the main stadium.

Group 1, which wants to build a car preparation site on the rest of the site, has since changed its offer and wants to gift the stadium, with a grass pitch, to Grays Athletic – and then provide half a million pounds to develop community pitches at Thurrock Council’s Belhus Park site.

Now Sport England says it: “raises no objection to this application, subject to the proposed financial; contribution to mitigate the impact of the development on the playing fields and the freehold transfer of the former Thurrock FC stadium being secured through a section 106 agreement and a planning condition being imposed relating to a community use agreement.”

The terms that Sport England wants to see fulfilled include:

• A financial contribution of £500,000 paid to Thurrock council that would be used towards the delivery of new or enhanced football pitches at Thurrock Council’s Belhus Park playing fields in nearby Aveley.
• The gifting of the former Thurrock FC stadium to a community sports partner (the applicant has currently selected Grays Athletic Football Club) through transferring freehold of the stadium
• The completion of a community use agreement for securing the wider community use of the stadium facilities beyond use by the community sports partner.

Sport England’s full response can be found here..

And Highways England has defined some of the conditions it expects to see regarding traffic management on the site and says if they are agreed to, it too will not oppose the project.

The full planning application currently being considered by Thurrock Council can be viewed here.

On behalf of the board of directors of fan-owned Grays Athletic Glyn Jarvis has told the council: “I have been authorised by the Board of Directors of Grays Athletic Community Football Club to write in our continued support of the amended planning application recently submitted for Ship Lane.

“The club submitted a response in support of the original planning application on 19 February 2020. 

“We now confirm that we support the retention of that part of the land which was previously used as the main Thurrock FC main pitch, changing rooms, clubhouse and car parking, for football use in perpetuity, subject to clarification on the precise delineation of the land to be gifted to us and the satisfactory agreement to the heads of terms for the transfer of the relevant land.

“The club will strive to support the community through the use of the pitch at Ship Lane and intend to work closely with the council’s recreation and leisure services section to maintain and improve the facilities at the ground.”

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