HS2 and Wendover Cricket Club
Wendover Cricket Club (WCC) is, like many other businesses, organisations and residents in Wendover, directly and adversely affected by HS2. In our case at least we have the promise of having something to show for our pain when it eventually comes to fruition.
WCC will still need to use the Witchell ground, which is currently primarily used for junior cricket – training and matches – as well as the Village Cup competition. As a consequence of losing the Ellesborough Road ground, a Witchell storage facility will also have to be installed to enable the ground to be maintained.
Despite the promise of a good deal from HS2, WCC has suffered at the hands of HS2 from the outset of the project since 2017. Lengthy delays, u-turns, lack of communication and information until recently, long delays in being reimbursed significant sums of money … the list goes on.
HS2 had always advised that dates were ‘cast in stone’ and the initial critical one was the projected loss of the Ellesborough Road ground (ERG) on 1/06/2019. Despite the urgency required to get on with building the new ground, HS2 continually dragged its feet. The location written into the HS2 Act is on the arable field behind the vets in Tring Road on the edge of Halton. Although HS2 would fund the works, it was up to WCC to engage a design team and build it. It takes a new cricket square 18 to 24 months to be established, so to have met the original June date, construction would have had to start by September 2017. Spoiler Alert: This did not happen!
A year was spent trying to get a funding agreement and just as it had been agreed, HS2 came up with a cunning plan to keep the club at the ERG in September 2018. A silent year had passed when WCC managed to get a meeting with the contractor EK who broke the news of the plans for a 5m high retaining wall along the ground. WCC’s protests fell on deaf ears as did all requests for information, until a new HS2 contact was provided in March 2020 and monthly engagement meetings began. Thanks to the support and actions of Rob Butler MP, HS2 announced earlier than might have been the case on 29/07/2020 that WCC was to be relocated after all.
But because the railway was “full speed ahead”, the new ground wouldn’t be ready in time and WCC would have to temporarily relocate somewhere for 1 or 2 seasons. It was essential therefore that planning the new ground started ASAP but the old funding agreement had to be tweaked and agreed. Work progressed on this over the last 6 months and agreement had just been reached when it all went quiet. As Wendover News goes to press, the agreement has been abandoned and a new funding process will be agreed sometime in the future. So, if HS2 don’t reconsider or make rapid progress, WCC may have to relocate elsewhere for an additional season (2 to 3 seasons).
Three years ago it was hoped to provide two grounds at Tring Road but the landowner’s plans changed and now it will be an “equivalent relocation” of the ERG. That’s not a like-for-like replacement as HS2 originally hoped, but a new facility equivalent to ERG but built to modern standards – both the cricket ground itself and the clubhouse, nets and other facilities. Unfortunately, the “safeguarded area” included in the HS2 Act is on the small side but we won’t know what’s achievable until we are able to engage our designers and they tell us. However, the aim of WCC is that the new facilities will contain everything one would want for cricket – changing rooms, kitchen, bar, clubroom, officials’ room, etc. and instead of an old-style scorebox, an electronic remote scoreboard.
The immediate challenges include getting HS2 to allow WCC to engage its design team and start work now, getting quotes and the designs approved so they can be submitted for planning, limiting any delays HS2 cause to a minimum and in due course, reaching agreements with other clubs on the grounds we might be able to share in 2022 and 2023 – at least 3 will be needed for 4 youth teams and 3 senior teams.
WCC and all its members now look to HS2 to live up to their previous promises and do right by the people of Wendover. Time will tell but regular updates can be found on www.pitchero.com/clubs/wendovercricketclub and for any specific information, please contact Jonathan Seabrook at email@example.com.