LANCASHIRE COUNTY Cricket Club is calling on Isle of Man-based billionaire Albert Gubay to drop his legal challenge to its £70m plans to transform Old Trafford into a ground fit to host the 2013 Ashes.
The club has confirmed that Mr Gubay, owner of Bermuda-based Derwent Holdings, which owns the nearby White City retail park, has been granted leave to appeal at the Court of Appeal against LCCC’s plans, which include a Tesco supermarket.
Despite numerous failed attempts to overturn Trafford Council’s original planning decision and a High Court defeat (the High Court subsequently refused leave to appeal), Derwent has now taken the matter to the Court of Appeal in London.
LCCC Chief Executive Jim Cumbes says: “Mr Gubay’s own plans for a rival food store at White City have been rejected by the planning authorities. His latest challenge seems a pointless exercise, but it is creating huge uncertainty for us due to its financial implications.”
The club is implementing its planning consent and is already on site with demolition and preparatory work, and is confident that the development schedule can still be maintained, but warns against further delay and disruption.
Mr Cumbes says: “Any appeal would be strongly opposed and we have instructed a leading planning silk, Mr Robert Griffiths Q.C. to represent us. We remain supremely confident that the ultimate outcome will be in our favour.
No date has been set for any Court of Appeal hearing. “It’s frustrating. We want any further legal challenge heard quickly so we can fight it off and get on with the full development after years of painstaking work,” says Mr Cumbes
“We firmly believe we will ultimately get the go-ahead for our plans. We consider Mr Gubay’s strategy is to hold us up indefinitely until we run out of time and we ultimately fail. But, inspired by massive support from the North-west public, we are determined this will not happen.”
The club’s most famous player of recent times Andrew Flintoff says: “The redevelopment of Old Trafford is crucial to the future of the club, and for Test Match and International cricket in the North West. A redeveloped Old Trafford will also provide fantastic facilities which will benefit the whole community, especially local young people.
“Just as Manchester’s profile in world football is rising to new heights, our aspiration to have LCCC’s status on a similar level in world cricket is frustrated yet again by what seems to be a never-ending legal process.
“Albert Gubay said on BBC TV that he was worth £1bn. I’d like to ask him if he is intent on squeezing the life out of Lancashire County Cricket Club? Is he trying to break the hearts of countless cricket fans in the Northwest and sport lovers all over the world?
“And what does he seek to gain by pursuing what seems to be a pointless case through every court in the land?”
Alan Burke of Ask Developments says: “We are in constant ongoing dialogue with all of our partners to manage our way through this period of further delay. We don’t know what is motivating Mr Gubay but there are huge numbers of cricket fans and sports fans in general who would like to know.”
“We are bemused as to why Derwent continue their aggressive tactics to over-turn the cricket club’s planning consent. If Derwent succeed, there will be no new Ground, and no new supermarket for Derwent. It’s a scorched earth policy which will produce no winners.”
The plans include £32m of investment in 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 refurbished 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. The development alone will bring investment of at least £70m into parts of Trafford which suffer from low levels of economic activity and employment.