KNEBWORTH Park’s players and supporters have sent a loud and clear message to planners: ‘You must not let this club die.’
Exactly 200 comments were submitted to North Herts District Council by the close of the public consultation period and all but a couple of dozen were strongly in favour.
Members, supporters, parents, former players and friends from far and wide have rallied to the cause of saving the club which has been going for 140 years.
Typical was this message from one of our junior members, who said: ‘I along with 100’s of other cricketers at the club would be devastated to see a part of my life taken away from me as at Knebworth. Cricket is more than a game, more than a sport it is a superb community event bringing people of all ages together in enjoyment and fun and friends we make on the way.’
The club has unveiled a £1million plan to develop a new ground opposite the Lytton Arms in Park Lane, a few hundred yards from its present ground in Old Knebworth Lane.
The proposals include three pitches plus an elegant, low-level pavilion providing modern facilities for girls and the disabled.
Chairman Chris Johnson said it was fabulous to see the level of support the scheme has attracted, with the club receiving so many messages of goodwill from its friends throughout the cricketing community.
Our message that the future of cricket for hundreds of children and for generations to come could not be ignored, he added.
‘We are overwhelmed by the way the club’s predicament has brought out the best in the cricketing community. We would not necessarily make this move by choice but we are determined that there should be a positive outcome for everybody involved in the club, in the village of Knebworth and in cricket in Hertfordshire.’
The scheme suffered a minor setback on Monday night when Knebworth Parish Council’s planning committee rejected our proposals.
It was a lively meeting with the vociferous opponents putting across their objections forcibly, at times, heckling councillors as they tried to discuss the merits of the proposal.
Most of the concerns seemed to be over the size of the pavilion. The club contends it is a discreet building in keeping with the area and, with the topography of the land, screening and the distance from nearest houses, will be almost unnoticeable.
A secondary issue of sewage was raised; but it was difficult to see how this amounted to a significant planning objection and the club will take whatever measures are needed to assuage any fears.
Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s a bit like losing an early wicket in a tricky run chase but we believe we still have a solid batting line-up with a few big hitters yet to come.
‘The parish council is just one of many statutory consultees and other organisations are proving much more supportive.
‘We genuinely believe this is a terrific plan, with huge benefits for the village and the cricketing community at large, and we believe common sense and good planning will prevail in the end.’
A final decision is expected from North Herts District Council towards the end of April.