Flamingo Park ticks all the boxes - says Cray Wanderers vice-chairman David Francis
The struggling Ryman League Division One North club has confirmed that they have signed a conditional contract (subject to planning permission) to purchase Flamingo Park Sports Centre on the A20 Sidcup Bypass in Chislehurst.
The contract, which was completed last Friday, 3 October, gives the club an eighteen-month period to obtain planning permission from the London Borough of Bromley for a new sporting community hub, centred on a 2,200 capacity multi-sport stadium.
In a statement, Chairman Gary Hillman said: “I am very excited about Flamingo Park. The club had to fight off several big national house builders who were very keen to build hundreds of houses on this green-belt land. Football hasn’t been played here for over four years so it will be good to bring this sporting facility back to life.
“Our new stadium will have a 3G pitch, so we won’t need as much enabling development as last time. The club looks forward to working with London Borough of Bromley to bring the community this new sporting facility.”
The club plans to set up a women’s football team and a team for people with disabilities. The community will also benefit from the stadium’s proposed state-of-the art health and fitness facilities.
Maidstone United, who play one division higher than Cray Wanderers in the Ryman Premier League, have been the market leaders in using a 3G playing surface and have proven the business and community case for them.
Football clubs across the country are following their lead, with two Ryman League clubs, Harlow Town and Whyteleafe, playing on 3G pitches, which are now accepted as a suitable surface to play non-league football on by the Football Association.
They can be played on for approximately 60 hours a week instead of just five to six hours on a grass surface and brings in much needed revenue for clubs.
Vice-chairman David Francis, a former Cray Wanderers footballer, added: “Since returning to the club over a year ago I’ve been working to improve and expand the successful Cray Community Scheme and to find them and the club a permanent home. Flamingo Park ticks all the boxes.”
The Cray Community Scheme continues to successfully deliver improved physical education into local schools and sports clubs. Working with local police, schools and other community groups, the scheme continues to develop and expand.
Mr Hillman added: “If all goes well we plan to kick-off the 2017-2018 season here.”
The Wands, who currently ground share Bromley’s ground at Hayes Lane, have had two previous attempts to build a new stadium – at Sandy Lane, St. Paul’s Cray and Manorfields in Orpington – rejected by Bromley council.
Mr Hillman said “We had massive support for our last planning application. I was very surprised when local ward councillors voted against it. However, UKIP publicly supported the club’s plans for a new stadium.”
And in May’s local elections, voters showed their support for the club when they elected two UKIP candidates (David Livett and Terence Nathan) in the Cray Valley West Ward.
They replaced two of the sitting Conservative councillors who had also sat on Borough’s Planning Committee and voted against Cray Wanderers Sandy Lane planning application, in September 2012.
These were the only UKIP councillors elected in the borough, although a third UKIP candidate missed out by a whisker in the Cray Valley East Ward.