Club Cricket Conference

Friday, 24th May 2019

Hadleigh upset by council's adjacent development

By Charles Randall

25 April 2019


Another cricket club has been blighted by a proposal to create housing next to the boundary, but this case involves  the eminent Suffolk club Hadleigh CC and the district council offices.

It is almost beyond belief that Babergh District Council are driving through a plan to convert their old offices into housing, bringing them into conflict with one of their prize local community assets, safety being the key contention.

The first match played by Hadleigh was recorded in 1779. They have occupied their present ground at Friars Road near Ipswich since 1893 and probably played on this meadow long before then.  They compete in the Two Counties Championship, and in there was a time when they were the strongest club in Suffolk.

Now, with Sport England and ECB assistance, the club is lined up against a council who should be supporting them. Despite on-going objections from Sport England and Hadleigh, planning permission for 57 homes was approved, and Babergh Council indicated that the cricket club should be entirely responsible for the safety netting required.

Loss of playing area and safety are two aspects under scrutiny by Sport England, an organisation tasked with carrying out Government policy. The development will be so close to the boundary that risk-free cricket will be almost impossible, however tall the netting. The 'mitigation' against risk, proposed by the developers and approved by the council, involved netting only 4.3 metres high.  Whatever the legal issues, the morality of the council's attitude seems questionable.

David Mann, Hadleigh's chairman, said in an interview with the Suffolk Free Press newspaper that the implications of the development were very serious, threatening the club's existence.

"The reality is that cricket balls are hit out of our ground on a regular basis," he said. "While the buildings were offices, this was not a major problem for the club. When cricket was being played, the buildings were empty - the opposite will be true with this development."

Mann cited increased insurance against damage and the possibility of future litigation as a major burden for the club.

Hadleigh's management committee released a statement recently setting out their objections. "The proposed mitigation solution does not reduce the risk of potential ball strikes to a level that the club would consider acceptable," they said, "and in fact shifts responsibility for maintenance of the mitigation solution from the developer to the cricket club, and puts a time limit on that management and maintenance plan."

"At a meeting in January it was made clear by the senior representative of Babergh that the club would be fully liable for any damage to property or persons. This meant that we had to request an improvement to the proposed mitigation measures in order to protect the club’s interests. As it stands the height of the permanent ball stop netting, at 4.3 metres, is just too low and exposes not only the club but the future residents of the development to far too much risk. The height of the demountable ball stop netting, while offering greater protection, still offers the risk of damage to property."

The statement concluded: "We simply cannot understand how the application could be approved when there are so many unresolved issues with the organisation that it will affect most. We do not want to oppose the development. We do not want to see these buildings fall into disuse. All we want is to continue playing cricket as we have done on this ground for over 200 years, nothing more, nothing less."

As recently as 2015 Hadleigh proudly opened their newly extended and modernised pavilion, having raised £250,000. At that time Mann was talking of an "exciting new era" for Hadleigh. Little did the club realise what Babergh District Council had in store for them.

In Huddersfield the erection of safety netting caused anger among local residents living near Golcar CC. The height of this netting was 12 metres and required three massive pylons to keep it secure - an eyesore for those nearby in a new housing development.

The developers said they took responsibility for the netting  with advice from Sport England and the ECB.