Bristol development finally approved
Gloucestershire's future in Bristol has been secured after planning permission for the development of Nevil Road was granted on appeal. The club's revised plans were voted seven to three in favour by Bristol City Council.
The original application was rejected in January, raising fears that the club would be forced out of Bristol - their home since the formation of the club in 1870. But the plans were scaled down and building can now start at the end of this season.
The initial objection was about the height of of the apartment block at the Ashley Down end of the ground - the development that will fund the £10 million project. The design was reduced by a storey but still maintained 147 dwellings - the number necessary to make the apartment block financially viable - by lengthening the building. The sustainability of the building was also improved and three councillors accepted the amendments - a swing sufficient to see the application approved.
Gloucestershire were aided at the council meeting by Paul Russell, the former chairman of Glamorgan who oversaw the transformation of Sophia Gardens into a Test ground, and Robert Griffiths QC, who was in charge of the proposed £400 million redevelopment of Lord's before the project was scrapped. Griffiths was also involved in the rebuilding of Old Trafford.
Development can now take place to bring Nevil Road up to ECB standards for international cricket. Gloucestershire have staged an international each year since 1999 - a match which generates £1 million for the local economy and is essential to the club's business model.
The delay in gaining permission saw Bristol stripped of an ODI against New Zealand, scheduled for 2013, together with budget constrictions that saw long-serving players Jon Lewis and Chris Taylor leave the county. The club was forced to turn to the city council for financial help and were granted a £400,000 bridging loan to help afford the professional services to remodel the planning application. But the financial pressure should now begin to ease and Gloucestershire hope to welcome India for an ODI in 2014.
Around 7,000 permanent seats will be installed mostly on the side of the ground adjacent to City of Bristol College, with 10,000 temporary seats brought in for international matches. A world-class media centre will be built in a new pavilion, along with an improved business centre and cricketing facilities.
Gloucestershire chief executive, Tom Richardson, was pleased the drawn-out process had finally been resolved. "We are very pleased that the committee has come to this decision as it finally allows us to realise our ambitions in bringing the very best of what cricket can offer to our home city.
"We have many people to thank - it has been a long journey and a huge amount of hard work has gone into it, which in turn has been supported by residents across Bristol, including our local area of Bishopston. We can now look forward to making the next stage of our plans happen."
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo