Top-class cricket has come a step closer to finding a new home at the heart of Lancashire after work got underway on a long-planned new ground in South Ribble.Advertisement
The 5,000-spectator venue for Lancashire Cricket Club – to complement its Old Trafford base – is being built off Stanifield Lane in Farington. It could be hosting matches in less than two years.
When it opens, the facility is set to stage up to six men’s T20 matches a year, a further two four-day fixtures for the county men’s team and six Lancashire women’s teams games.
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It will boast two full-size cricket ovals, a two-storey pavilion building and practice nets – and it is intended that it will support the development of youth, community and women’s cricket in the region, while also becoming a Women’s Centre of Excellence for the North West.
A second ground for the club was deemed necessary because Old Trafford is now operating beyond its maximum capacity – with international cricket, elite Lancashire men’s and women’s fixtures and 100-ball competitions all now part of the busy seasonal schedule.
Planning permission was granted by Lancashire County Council’s development control committee back in March but then required final approval from the government before construction could begin.
The plans had led to fears amongst residents living close to the 14-hectare greenbelt plot, who – in spite of supporting the scheme overall – warned that the siting of the practice nets and refuse bins so close to their properties would cause a noise nuisance.
Committee members were told that the blueprint would have to remain unaltered after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) demanded that the nets be installed next to the pavilion in order to ensure the safety and security of younger cricketers – and county councillors gave the proposal the go-ahead.
However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that residents kept up the pressure over their concerns and secured concessions that they are now happy with.
Fowler Avenue householder Tony Willetts said that it had never been the intention of locals to hit the project for six.
“We never wanted to try and stop it – and we’re actually looking forward to it getting done now, because, at the end of the day, it will be good for everybody,” he said.
“They have now repositioned the nets so that they are fairly equal between all the neighbours. We also had a problem with the bin [storage] area – but that [is now being put] underground. So everything we asked for has been done.
“The cricket club have insisted that they want to be good neighbours with us – and so do we.”
Conditions of the planning permission already meant that a five-metre-high acoustic fence would enclose the nets, which will themselves be installed one-and-a-half metres below the existing ground level in order to provide further noise mitigation. The committee also agreed to restrict year-round use of the practice area and its 12 wickets to 8pm.
Speaking after a turf-cutting ceremony to mark the start of work on the site, the club’s director of cricket performance, Mark Chilton, said: “This is a landmark day for Lancashire Cricket as construction begins at Farington, a unique ground that will bring together elite and community cricket – located on one site in the heart of our county.
“It’s something that we’ve been working on, alongside Lancashire County Council, for a long while now and the development will provide top-class elite facilities for both our men’s and women’s side which can also serve recreational cricket and the wider community at the same time.
“Our aim is to have cricket take place by the end of the 2025 season and we are all incredibly excited at the Club to watch the progression of the site over the next couple of years. We would also like to thank Lancashire County Council for all their assistance with the project.”
County Hall’s cabinet member for economic development and growth, Aidy Riggott, added that the ”pioneering development” – on a site owned by the county council – “will provide new professional-standard facilities for the club, as well as being a valuable asset for the local community with multiple benefits to health and wellbeing”.
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“We’re pleased that we’ve brought in Lancashire-based Eric Wright Construction to build this facility, bringing an excellent track record in providing further benefits to the county through local jobs and procurement,” County Cllr Rigott said.
The ECB has provided £1.6m in funding towards the development of the new facility, which consultants estimated will generate almost £11m of investment in the local economy during the construction phase and £2.1m a year once it is operational.
Clare Connor, the ECB’s deputy chief executive, said: “This new facility in Farington will create a community cricket hub which Lancashire will be proud of, serving diverse groups of participants in our sport.
“It represents one of the ECB’s largest ever investments because of its scope; it will become a professional standard hub for women’s and girls’ cricket, a regional development centre for disability cricket, and a place which will be used by state schools, local clubs and community groups.
“In doing so, Farington will directly support many of the game’s priorities, through long-term growth and connecting more communities through cricket.”
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