Incredibly it was a year ago on this date (13th March) that Cray Wanderers received planning permission from Bromley Council on a 11-3 majority for the new ground at Flamingo Park. It was a tremendous evening, one where many of us turned up in hope rather than expectation of a result.
Following the verdict, a month later letters of support were delivered to the Mayor of London’s office at City Hall for GLA approval and on 26th November after more work behind the scenes, our plans passed and our dreams and the hard work of so many could become reality.
A nerve wracking occasion and I’m not sure what was more stressful, the Town Hall or the Playoff Semi-Final. Perhaps a draw at the end of the day.
Here is a reminder of official match report from the Town Hall:
“An evening of nerve wracking tension not felt for a very long time as a mass throng of Cray Wanderers club officials and PR team, Management and players, supporters, residents, journalists, Cray Wanderers Youth team and Cray Wanderers Community Scheme representatives were on hand at the Council chambers to hear the verdict from Bromley Council for the new proposed ground at Flamingo Park.
I arrived hideously early at 6.35pm where I found Gary Hillman in a confident mood but it seemed an age of a wait to gain access to the building. Others then came along to join us and the players and staff and at this time we could go in.
The Council had requested a refusal in their preparatory statement so it was Gary’s task in three minutes to give his reasons for the Council to accept our plans. There was a tense wait for Gary and for the audience as the first ten minutes were taken up with a rather hard to understand point of the minutes of the last meeting in regards to the refusal of the application for a Boys School at Bullers Wood. There were a number of parents and supporters of the School there and they left after the points were made. I’m confused as to what was going on and the supporters looked just as bemused when they departed.
Now it was down to Cray Wanderers and over to Gary to give his three minutes piece. Measured and calmly delivered it covered every angle in 2 mins 45 secs. Then he had to field questions from the councillors which he managed to answer implacably and any dopey questions he batted away with an admirable disdain such as “if all a football team needs is a pitch why do you need a ground to go with it”. That might have been the case in 1860 at Star Lane when the club was starting but we have moved on a bit since then.
Gary could now leave the table and go back to his seat and now it was the crunch time for the councillors to make their views heard. We live in a democracy and this was local accountable democracy in action as it should be. There were always going to be objections to our plans but you have to live with the fact that other people have opinions different to your own.
First to speak was Cllr Kate Boughey who set the ball rolling with a very impassioned defence of our plans and this was greeted by the first round of applause of the session. With only 14 councillors available things were going our way as the Chairman Cllr Dean supported us but his vote didn’t count unless in the event of a tie. Four more councillors gave us four votes. Cllrs Fawthrop, Michael and Scoates are impassioned defenders of Green Belt land and although we had special circumstances on our side and the fact that the current site is in an unregulated mess they stuck to their beliefs that is no reason to go against Green Belt policy.
Perhaps the biggest round of applause came for Cllr Turner who said that Cray Wanderers FC are the Oldest Football Club and Bromley Council should be proud to have a club like that in the Borough and should be supported in their plans. If one could cry then that would have been the time to get the hankie out. He, Cllrs Livett, Mellor and Reddin gave us the thumbs up which by my scorechart made it 8-3 to us and an unassailable lead (9-3 if you include the chairman). This was followed by a show of hands as all statements were completed and three more councillors who didn’t speak supported us and so it was an 11-3 victory for common sense I suppose but for all those that put the effort in over the last few years to get Cray Wanderers a ground of their own. Perhaps a few minor tweaks to iron out but we could breath easily again. Cllr Fawthrop quipped after that perhaps now Cray Wanderers could drop the Wanderers name if they get a ground of their own but I suggest he needs to read the Cray Wanderers history book from the beginning and why we were Wanderers when we started and always will be.
Special mention to Gary, Dave Francis, Jason Ellis, Micky Paye, Sadie Bossom and everyone involved some of whom perhaps go unnoticed and inconspicuous but great thanks for their business acumen and developmental skills.
Credit also to all Tony Russell, his coaching staff and all the players who came along the day before a league match to give their support which added to the tremendous theatre of the occasion.
Of course all is not decided this evening. The scale of the project means the GLA will cast their eye on the proposals (it was turned down before) and then the Secretary of State for Communities and Housing but it is always important to get your councils backing and there did seem to be cross-party support amongst the councillors and a bigger majority than last time which was a bit more touch and go and this might help our cause when it goes to departments that we will not be present at.
I don’t really think I would want to go through that again as it is stomach churningly hard to sit through but at the end there was nowhere we would much rather be.
Special Mention to the 11 Councillors who voted for us – Cllr Boughey, Cllr Harmer, Cllr Buttinger, Cllr Turner, Cllr Mellor, Cllr Livett, Cllr Bosshard, Cllr Reddin, Cllr Lymer, Cllr Allen, Cllr Wilkins plus Chair Cllr Dean”
A day after the verdict, Cray Wanderers returned to the football field and ended a three match losing streak with a 5-1 win against Whyteleafe which began a run of one defeat in the final nine league games. We’d had worse 24 hours that is for sure.