Isle of Man tax exile’s legal move will not de-rail our 2013 Ashes dream, say partners
Lancashire County Cricket Club (LCCC) and its development partner Ask Developments announce their intention to continue with crucial ground re-development work in the face of aggressive legal action by Bermuda-based Derwent Holdings, owners of the nearby White City shopping park.
Derwent is seeking a last-minute judicial review of Trafford Council’s approval of the club’s plans to transform the historic site into a leading sports destination fit to host the 2013 Ashes.
Only recently, the partners were celebrating the confirmation by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that their £70m investment plans to redevelop the stadium can proceed.
Alan Burke of Ask Developments says: “The claims made by Derwent Holdings are nonsensical. They have tried every available means to kill our plans and this is a desperate last gasp tactic. We find their significant delay in seeking a Judicial Review telling, revealing their true intent to de-rail our proposals rather than pursue a genuine grievance. They are notorious for having a track record for this type of aggressive legal action.
“Despite setting out their intention to seek a Judicial Review in March of this year. They have waited until the Christmas holiday period to do so. This is clearly a strategy designed to blow our plans out of the water.
“Over the summer, Derwent aggressively pressured the Secretary of State to ‘Call In’ our scheme for a public inquiry. He looked at it carefully over a considerable time and concluded they had no grounds to their demands.”
The Partners express dismay at the cynicism of Derwent’s recent move given the tight construction schedule for preparing the ground ready for the prestige Ashes Series in 2013.
Adds Mr Burke: “Derwent know we are facing a demanding timetable for delivery - their tactics are designed to have the maximum possible disruption to our programme and delivery of our funding package. They hope we will fail so they can progress their own commercial agenda.
"We have a funding commitment towards our project of over £5m approved by the Northwest Regional Development Agency. The terms of that agreement dictate that we must be clear of any potential Judicial Review action by April 2011 or risk losing that money. Such an outcome would be a disaster for the Club, Trafford borough and the North West. The only factor putting this funding at risk is Derwent's ongoing action. The very extensive delays we are incurring due to the very late nature of Derwent's challenge is not only extremely frustrating but fundamentally jeopardising our ability to call down this vital funding."
LCCC’s Chief Executive Jim Cumbes says: “Our plans have been the subject of thorough and detailed consultation. They have been debated exhaustively both locally and nationally. There was a remarkable number of letters of support from ordinary Trafford residents and cricket fans – more than 900, plus thousands of website pledges.
“A key part of our plans are guaranteed local jobs for the unemployed, links to local schools and major community benefits. But Derwent seem to care not a jot about International Cricket, the image of Trafford, or the prospects for local kids and the unemployed.”
Adds Cumbes: “LCCC has been in Old Trafford for 150 years and is seeking to secure a future for International Cricket for the next century. This action is about securing commercial gain at the expense of the LCCC’s sporting legacy for schools, community groups and young people in the North West. Mr Gubay is based in the Isle of Man tax haven and his company is based in Bermuda. People can draw their own conclusions from the contrast.
“Derwent’s aggressive tactics include being less than clear about facts. For months they sought to delay matters by claiming Sainsbury’s were interested in operating out of their units on the White City retail park. This turned out to be a red herring.
“We are pleased to confirm that we are on site and well underway implementing a perfectly lawful planning consent for the substantial re-development of Old Trafford. Derwent’s actions are a blatant attempt to force us to stop work. There is too much at stake for the club, Trafford and the wider North-west and we will not be bullied into stopping.”
In addition to financial support from the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the LCCC plans are supported by Visit Manchester, MediaCity UK, Manchester United and Manchester City, Trafford College, MIDAS, AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities), the Shadow Greater Manchester LEP, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and the Manchester Hoteliers Association.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had confirmed that without substantial redevelopment, after 2010’s Test Match against Bangladesh there would be no more Test match cricket at Old Trafford and the future of international cricket in general there would be in jeopardy.
The LCCC Partners note that Derwent Holdings’ stalling tactics led to a scenario of Judicial Review and High Court challenges over land on Edge Lane in Liverpool, wasting years with legal process and delaying vital regeneration.
The current £32m phase of investment under way is to develop new pitches, stands, state of the art player and media facilities and an extension to the ground’s indoor cricket school and public areas. Two new grandstands and a re-furbished Pavilion will ensure a capacity of 15,000 capable of rising to 25,000 with temporary seating. There will also be floodlights and a screen showing action replays.