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May 1, 2013
Derek Brewer, the MCC chief executive and secretary who arrived at Lord's a year ago, will next week discuss a new offer from Rifkind Levy Partnership (RLP) for the development of the Nursery ground.
RLP outbid MCC in 1999 for the head lease on the disused railway tunnels that run inside Wellington Road at the northern end of Lord's. They have been attempting over the past 14 years to build apartments - and lately a hospital building - at the Nursery End in return for a cash offer to MCC. This has amounted to £100 million plus £10m to the cricket charity Chance to Shine. The latest offer, which Brewer says he will "forensically" examine, is £75m for a reduced development, enabling the club to retain 66 car parking spaces and a compound for television crews.
The property developers have also stipulated that there would be no encroachment on the Nursery ground, which MCC believes to be "sacrosanct". Mike Griffith, the club's president, has been particularly adamant that this area, the club's second ground, should be retained purely for cricketing purposes. This is also a stipulation of the ECB for allocating major matches.
The original development committee, which was wound up in controversial circumstances in 2011, advocated that flats could still be built if the Nursery ground, traditionally played on by Cross Arrows and other assorted sides, was enlarged. The thinking was that it could enable Middlesex to play one day matches there and hence prevent over-use of the main square.
The fact that the Victorian tunnels, still in good condition, fell out of MCC's control has led to much contentious debate, resignations and sackings over a six-year period. The original development committee, including 11 eminent members such as Sir John Major, Mike Atherton, Tony Lewis and Lord Grabiner, worked in conjunction with RLP to come up with a £400m proposal for a wide-ranging redevelopment. The "Vision" for Lord's.
As Brewer emphasised at the annual meeting, clubs like Hampshire and Lancashire are now particularly well run and present a threat to MCC's continuing staging of two Test matches a year. Various members suggested that an offer should be made to RLP for the head lease of the tunnels, but Oliver Stocken, MCC's chairman, has been told that they are not for sale. Hence the dispute is set to rumble on. Nick Gandon, formerly the director of Chance to Shine and the leader of the requisitionists seeking to stage a special general meeting that would examine the termination of the "Vision" is still set on collecting the necessary 180 signatures of members.
Given that the club's 18,000 members will not be presented with a full proposal by the club for another year, they will have time to mull over whether to accept any offer that will be made direct to them.
Robert Leigh, MCC treasurer, says there is no need to sell off what he terms "the family silver". The members now have to decide if they would prefer to take this particular form of a pot of gold.
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