‘My beach sport was buried’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Crackdown As tour Centre - By Ai­dan Bar­low

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.

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­group.co.uk

Pic­ture: Tony Flash­man FM2765423/FM3968565

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

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