Green Belt for Grandstand: Part 2


We warned about this two-and-a-half years ago (click here): The Jockey Club stood to make so much from their plan to dig up the parkland on half of their Kempton Park estate that they could afford to repay the £25m owed to the bondholders who financed the new Grandstand at Cheltenham, and have cash left over to make a big repayment of the additional £43m they owed the banks and other creditors.

Things have changed since then, of course. The Jockey Club’s total debt has grown from £97m to £155m (page 12 here), and, of course, they now want to bulldoze their entire Kempton Park estate to raise in excess of £100m.

One thing hasn’t changed. When we brought up this topic with Jockey Club management and PR consultants in 2014, it was remarkable how defensive they were. A couple of weeks ago, the defensiveness had given way to vehement denials, as if it were almost treasonous to question the health of The Jockey Club’s finances. Never mind the fact the £500m in investment they are promising over the decade following their hoped-for sale of the Kempton Park estate is no more than they spent over the decade to 2015. (The Jockey Club’s published Accounts only go up to 2015.)

But whatever the arguments they put up in denial, the fact remains: an important area of London’s Green Belt will be lost to put The Jockey Club’s finances in better order, to the added detriment of the quality of life of current residents of the area, as well as anyone who buys one of the 3000+ units The Jockey Club and Redrow will build, if they are given half a chance.

And there’s one other thing: this whole plan smells as if it were put together over a weekend. The vast majority of horse racing’s most influential people were not consulted. The Leader of Forest Heath District Council (home of Newmarket, and where the promised new all-weather track will be built to replace the one at Kempton Park which The Jockey Club wants to tear up) was not consulted. Neither, it seems, was anyone at Elmbridge Borough Council (home of Sandown Park, which The Jockey Club promises to upgrade and increase in capacity, with all sorts of implications for traffic flow in the Esher area).

In their initial plans to build on Kempton Park from 2012 onwards, The Jockey Club were at pains to spend years cultivating councillors and officials at Spelthorne Borough Council. Their plans came to nothing, and, instead of managing the development process themselves, they brought in Redrow to do it for them.

There are an increasing number of voices within The Jockey Club, and racing more generally, who think Redrow were the drivers behind this entire project. Redrow bounced Simon Bazalgette and his Stewards – over a matter of weeks – into agreeing this new plan to pour concrete over the entire Kempton Park estate. Long term plan it is not.

It’ll all come out in the wash at some stage …


Numbers don’t add up in JCR’s Kempton plan

Simon Bazalgette - Chief Executive, The Jockey Club
Simon Bazalgette – Chief Executive, The Jockey Club

“So this is apparently the Jockey Club’s proposal, at least as revealed to racing. A wafer-thin plan to flog Kempton on the cheap, to pay for a relatively unambitious investment programme that is in most respects nothing less than we would expect from the Jockey Club, and with all sorts of questions therefore arising about whether the racecourse group has been as sensible with its assets and finances as it would have us believe.”



Berry: JCR plan to close Kempton is road to hell


“When the announcement was first made I would say our members were maybe 60:40 against. That position has hardened since then as we’ve received a slightly wider picture of people’s views. What David Elsworth said was about right in terms of the opinions expressed to us by trainers. Now the split is nearer 80:20 against.”




Council leader wants Jockey Club to consider Newmarket housing needs

James Waters, the leader of Forest Heath district council. said that he had first heard of the Club’s plans for a major new facility in Newmarket “last week, the same as everyone else”. It would, he said, have a significant impact on the area, and occupy land which could also be used to address the desperate shortage of housing in the area.

The Jockey Club haven’t thought this through, have they. We wonder whether they’ve discussed the upgrading of Sandown and the events to be transferred there from Kempton Park with Elmbridge Borough Council … KKG