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Sussex gets green light for County Ground revamp

Sussex Cricket has received approval for a multi-million pound redevelopment of its 1st Central County Ground, a project the club states will secure its future at its historic home.

The stadium in Hove is regarded as one of the most traditional grounds in English county cricket, with the plans being backed with a vote of seven to three by Brighton & Hove City Council’s planning committee.

Sussex commissioned local firm ECE Architecture to create the plans, which are estimated to attract £20m (€23m/$26m) capital investment and create 153 jobs. The Council has granted permission for detailed plans for the first and second phases of the project, along with outline permission for the third and fourth phases.

Phase One includes replacing buildings on the south west corner of the ground, including The Sussex Cricketer pub, with 37 “quality apartments” and a pub with sun terrace in an “eco-friendly landmark building” which includes flexible commercial space.

A much more visible and attractive entrance to the ground is proposed, reinstating historical features such as the old Tate Gates and introducing a new clock tower. In response to public feedback, the traditional village green feel of the club is to be maintained through white picket fencing, grassy areas and planting trees and shrubs.

Phase Two includes replacing the existing club offices and the lowest capacity section of the Jointing Tech South West Stand with a purpose built five-star conferencing facility for match day hospitality and all-year event hire, built over two storeys and including a roof terrace.

Phase Three incorporates enhanced stands of permanent seating, which have been kept low so that impact on overlooking neighbours is minimally impacted, along with improved refreshment facilities and toilets. In response to requests from regular cricket fans, the north west and north east corners will be lined with artificial grass for people to continue to be able to enjoy the afternoon sun on deckchairs.

Phase Four proposes replacing the existing non-permanent hospitality buildings with more permanent seating, again kept low to minimise impact on neighbours of the ground, which currently has a capacity of around 6,000.

Sussex Cricket chief executive, Rob Andrew, said in a statement: “The County Ground has been based in Hove for nearly 150 years and we are thrilled that this allows us to secure our future here and to continue to deliver our wide-reaching community programmes across Sussex.

“We want to thank our club members, neighbours, local businesses, amenity and conservation groups as well as the South East Design Panel and council officers for their important input on our plans.”

The Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper said councillors at this week’s meeting raised concerns that the planning application did not include affordable housing. These concerns have been addressed by Sussex offering to allocate almost £900,000 towards affordable housing elsewhere in Brighton and Hove.

Speaking at the meeting, ECE’s planning consultant, Chris Barker, said the club would seek as much funding as possible from the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as it currently faces a £4m funding shortfall.

In September, Andrew applauded the ECB’s announcement of a £25m increase to its Infrastructure Fund for First-Class Counties (FCCs) over the next five years in a move to further boost the fan experience at grounds across the country.

The fresh investment followed on from the £50m of FCC infrastructure funding that the ECB pledged earlier in 2019 when launching its ‘Inspiring Generations’ strategy for the 2020 to 2024 period.

However, Barker warned that the ECB is expecting bids totalling around £200m for the funding pot. He added: “The club will apply for as much funding as possible. However, this funding is shared across 18 first class cricket clubs.”

Images: ECE Architecture