Derwent to challenge Old Trafford court decision
Lancashire County Cricket Club has postponed its Annual General Meeting as another legal action poses a question mark over the financial future of the club.
The AGM was due to be held on 13 April, but Derwent Holdings has confirmed that it is seeking leave to appeal the recent High Court decision upholding Trafford Council's approval of redevelopment plans for LCCC's Old Trafford ground.
Derwent Holdings, owner of the nearby White City retail park, is controlled by an off-shore Bermuda trust owned by Albert Gubay, who made his fortune from Kwik Save and Total Fitness.
Derwent was told by the High Court there were no grounds to appeal this month's decision. Now it is seeking to overturn that refusal, and has indicated its intent to lodge an appeal with the Court of Appeal.
The new challenge, which follows decisions first by central government and then the High Court backing Trafford Council's planning approval, is expected to further delay work on the £32m redevelopment of the ground and the 100,000 sq ft Tesco.
The club, Tesco and property partner Ask Developments hope to complete the new ground, store and community facilities by April 2013.
Jim Cumbes, chief executive of LCCC, and the board felt the AGM could not take place against such a background of uncertainty.
LCCC said the legal battle is causing a major drain on club finances and there is a renewed risk of missing deadlines for public sector funds from the North West Development Agency.
Cumbes said: "Despite being defeated emphatically in the High Court, and being refused leave to appeal by the High Court judge only last week, Derwent has announced its intent to try and over-turn the High Court judgment at the Court of Appeal in London. We have now been forced to take the unprecedented action of cancelling our proposed AGM, pending the outcome of this latest legal threat.
"Derwent have made so many attempts to derail our project and have been thwarted convincingly at every stage. We remain totally confident that, although they will attempt absolutely everything due to a seemingly unlimited financial resources, that we shall succeed eventually."
"We promised that we will secure a new international cricket ground and bring huge benefits to both the local and regional community and economy. We've been supported on our long journey by Trafford Council, by councils across Greater Manchester and by the wider business community."
Alan Burke, from Ask Developments, added: "If this matter ever reaches the Court of Appeal we are confident that it will endorse the legality of Trafford Council's decision to grant planning consent to our scheme in March 2010, as was the judgement reached by the Secretary of State and the High Court.
"It is the further delays that this latest threat poses to our ability to get on site and successfully bid for the 2013 Ashes that remains our constant worry. The commercial motivations behind Derwent choosing to continue this litigation are unclear as it would appear to us that Derwent has nothing to gain."
As well as the AGM, LCCC said the entire £70m investment into parts of Trafford suffering from low levels of economic activity and employment, is also being put on hold.
The cricket club said plans offer sporting facilities to local schools and the community at large, including an extension to the ground's indoor cricket school and public areas.
The overall development includes the completed The Point conference suite and stand and a proposed extension of the hotel, set for a later phase.
Lancashire County Cricket Club has already incurred costs of £1.6m on legal fees and other advice in getting to this stage.
The club has also lost £2m from the North West Development Agency and £1m from Sport England for indoor facilities due to deadlines for grant programmes expiring.
Lancashire County Cricket Club was removed from the international schedule for the Ashes series in recent years, but is aiming to get the England & Wales Cricket Board to reconsider the ground as a base for the 2013 Ashes series between England and Australia.
Two new grandstands and a refurbished Pavilion will ensure a capacity of 15,000, capable of rising to 25,000 with temporary seating.