CRAY’S WAY IS FORWARD
Wands finally get green light
IT WAS the phone call Cray Wanderers and chairman Gary Hillman had been hoping to receive for almost 14 years.
The Bostik League South East club finally had the news delivered on Monday that their application to build a new community hub and stadium, which will give Cray their own ground for the first time since 1973, had been approved by Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn.
On their third attempt at getting the scheme over the line, London’s oldest football club will be coming home.
“I was trying to keep myself busy all day,” Hillman, the driving force behind the application, explained to The NLP.
“And then I got the call at about four. It was my granddaughter’s third birthday party in the evening so I was enjoying a drink, I’m coming through the recovery period now!
“To finally get the approval from the Mayor is a very big step for the club. I’ve had a lot of messages from the community and from people in football.
“It’s been a long time talking about it, a lot of people have heard it all before about other schemes around the country, about what people are going to do, in the football world it becomes quite legendary.
“I’ve always said common sense would prevail, it has. We got caught up in a bit of a political issue between the Conservatives and Labour, and Bromley isn’t the most sporting boroughs of London.
“It was unfortunate but in hindsight it’s the best thing that has happened because each scheme has got progressively better. It’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise although I wouldn’t have said that along the line. There’s board members who have put in just as much effort as I have, the supporters have been superb, committee members who have been with the club for 45-50 years. “It’s about getting the club on the right structure and being self-sufficient forever. We’re very chuffed.” Cray signed a conditional contract in 2014 to purchase Flamingo Park Sports Centre in St Paul’s Cray, but the club suffered a setback when the Mayor blocked plans two years later to protect greenbelt land. The new stadium will have a capacity of 1,300 coupled with three additional 11 a-side pitches, a seven-a-side pitch and two five a-side pitches, which will be used by the club’s many junior sides along with purpose-built community facilities and 42 new affordable housing units. The project is hoped to be completed by the 2021-22 season with work expected to start in April or May next year once the remaining paperwork has been signed off.
“I’VE ALWAYS SAID THAT COMMON SENSE WOULD PREVAIL, NOW IT HAS AND WE’RE VERY CHUFFED” – Gary Hillman