‘My beach sport was buried’
Ashford could have missed out on having a 2,000-seater beach volleyball stadium because of council red tape, a developer claims.
Richard Gillam, who runs a company specialising in student accommodation, bought land opposite Bybrook Barn, off Canterbury Road, 18 months ago.
The site, which used to be the Houchin’s sports and social club, has been empty for more than 20 years, prompting speculation about future uses.
Mr Gillam, from Brighton, said he had explored various ideas for the site, including for an international beach volleyball stadium, but was told he would need to spend millions to improve roads in the area.
He said: “I bought the land from an electrical company, along with land in Scarborough, as part of a bigger purchase.
“I owned the acres at the front of the site, while another man owned land to the rear, and we were in discussions about what we could do with the site.
“One idea was for an international sports facility on the land, with a 2,000-seater beach volleyball stadium, but it all fell apart because of Kent Highways.
“They basically said that, because of the traffic, for every car we would introduce to the road system, they wanted £10,000.
“If you have 2,000 cars, that’s an awful lot of money, so it led to a fall-out. I’m still talking with Ashford Rugby Club as they are desperate for new facilities such as an all-weather pitch. But it has died a death. The county council killed it off.”
Mr Gillam also said the traffic concern meant that it was not possible to build an Aldi superstore at the site, and has also considered a new care home or pub/ restaurant.
Ashford Rugby Club chairman John Norman said there were also discussions about whether an all-weather pitch could be created at the site, but that after early talks the potential project seemed to go quiet.
The rugby club and the rear of the Houchin’s site could share an access road via Kinney’s Lane, and Mr Norman says traffic in the lane is not a serious problem at the moment.
The land is under offer with estate agent Cradick. For more information visit www.cradick. co.uk
Kent County Council failed to respond to a request for a comment as the Kentish Express went to press.
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Ashford could have hosted high-level beach volleyball tournaments, like these which Margate has enjoyed for years
The former sports field has been out of use for more than 20 years