Sunday 23 July 2017

Kempton Park could be closed for housing redevelopment 'from 2021 at the earliest'

Kempton, home of the King George VI Chase, could be closed for housing redevelopment
Kempton, home of the King George VI Chase, could be closed for housing redevelopment "from 2021 at the earliest", its owners the Jockey Club has announced.

Ashley Iveson

Kempton, home of the King George VI Chase, could be closed for housing redevelopment "from 2021 at the earliest", its owners the Jockey Club has announced.

The planned £500million of investments to be made in the sport in a 10-year plan proposed by the Jockey Club would see Kempton proposed as a future redevelopment site, with a new all-weather venue to be built if that idea goes ahead.

The Jockey Club's land at The Links in Newmarket is the front-runner as the location for a new floodlit artificial track, with the King George switching to Sandown.

The Kempton estate - on which it is anticipated any future development on racecourse land would be from 2021 at the earliest, subject to a successful planning process - has been submitted for consideration following the local authority's 'Call for Sites' to address unmet local housing needs and a decision to undertake a review of its Green Belt boundaries.

The track's owner feels "these combine to provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to promote the site for new homes and local benefits, while preserving green space between the local borough and London" with the stewards of the Jockey Club believing such an outcome would be "in the best long-term interests of British racing given the benefits for horsemen and racegoers that can be created and with the Surrey community already well-served for racing".

However, the Jockey Club insist Kempton will only be redeveloped if the move will generate in excess of £100m investment and the proposed all-weather circuit at Newmarket is given the green light.

Roger Weatherby, senior steward of the Jockey Club, said: "The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to act for the long-term good of British racing.

"One of the ways we want to live up to that is through a series of projects that offer benefits all around the country and collectively add up to us contributing more than half a billion pounds to the sport over the next decade from its grassroots to top level.

"We must show leadership with the assets we have and, where merited, take tough decisions to help our sport to keep moving forwards. The decision to submit our estate at Kempton Park for consideration in the Local Plan is unique and has not been taken lightly.

"Our board of stewards are horsemen and, having carefully considered what we can achieve in the long-run from doing so, are unanimously of the view that British racing is better served by us doing so.

"Horsemen and customers alike will enjoy the benefit of numerous projects nationwide that result from the record investment proposals we unveil today, which include investments at each of our racecourses and training grounds throughout the country."

The Jockey Club will request that the King George and a select amount of Kempton's jumps events be transferred to nearby Sandown.

Sandown, which is just six miles from Kempton, will be the beneficiary of a major investment itself, with plans to enhance aspects such as track drainage, further improvement of its race programme and a greater ability to market itself as London's premier dual-code racecourse.

Kempton's other jumps fixtures could be spread around other Jockey Club-owned racecourses throughout the country, although consultation with the British Horseracing Authority and the wider sport, as well as a careful review of turf capacity, would be undertaken.

Weatherby added: "If changes take place at Kempton Park in the future we will act to secure and invest in the jumps programme nationally.

"We will work with the British Horseracing Authority to seek to run some races, including the King George VI Chase, at Sandown Park. We plan to transform Sandown Park's facilities, utilise the latest advances in track technology and help bring a focus on it as London's premier dual-code racecourse right on the doorstep of millions of people, unlocking what we see as its great potential.

"Furthermore we will look to boost jump racing from its grassroots to the top-end in consultation with horsemen and the wider industry.

"This would include Kempton Park's programme being transferred to our jumps courses around the country and through investments at each track over the next decade - in all four of our regions, in the North, South West, East as well as London.

"A new purpose-built all-weather course on The Links in Newmarket to replace that at Kempton Park would be ideal for the thousands of horses trained at the home of racing and beyond, as well as shortening the working day for racing's people there.

"I am also particularly pleased that the Jockey Club will be even better placed in the coming years to provide further support to important causes, such as racing's welfare and education programmes. As ever our intention is for our sport to benefit to the greatest extent possible."

The British Horseracing Authority said it would work alongside the Jockey Club to benefit the "long-term interests of the sport".

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "We acknowledge and understand the reasons behind the Jockey Club's announcement earlier today.

"The BHA will work with the Jockey Club in the development of their plans, to ensure that the long-term interests of the sport - and its grassroots - are best served in the coming years, with a particular focus on safeguarding the future health of jump racing.

"It is early days yet, but should Kempton close, its jump fixtures will remain as jump fixtures.

"The proposed Newmarket all-weather track would need to go through the usual processes for the addition of new racecourses, which includes the submission of an application for approval by the BHA board, and ensuring that the course would meet all the necessary licensing criteria."

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