County news May 18, 2011

More doubt over Old Trafford future

ESPNcricinfo staff

Old Trafford's future as a Test match ground has once again been plunged into doubt after Derwent Holdings, the rival company trying to block the development plans for the area around Lancashire's home ground, won the right to go to the Court of Appeal.

This long-running battle had appeared to be at an end in March when the High Court ruled in Lancashire's favour and refused Derwent leave to appeal but the company, owned by billionaire Albert Gubay, made it clear they would seek to take the case further. Tesco, the supermarket chain, are backing Lancashire's plans and building a store in nearby White City while contributing £21million to the cost.

"Mr Gubay's own plans for a rival food store at White City have been rejected by the planning authorities," Jim Cumbes, the Lancashire chief executive, said. "His latest challenge seems a pointless exercise, but it is creating huge uncertainty for us due to its financial implications."

The major concern for Lancashire is the time these appeals take to be heard - and no date has been set by the Court of Appeal - as they try to get the redevelopment of Old Trafford complete in time for the 2013 Ashes.

"It's frustrating. We want any further legal challenge heard quickly so we can fight it off and get on with the full development after years of painstaking work," Cumbes said.

"We firmly believe we will ultimately get the go-ahead for our plans. We consider Mr Gubay's strategy is to hold us up indefinitely until we run out of time and we ultimately fail. But, inspired by massive support from the North-west public, we are determined this will not happen."

Andrew Flintoff, the former Lancashire and England allrounder, has also questioned the motives behind stalling the redevelopment. "Albert Gubay said on BBC TV that he was worth £1bn. I'd like to ask him if he is intent on squeezing the life out of Lancashire County Cricket Club? Is he trying to break the hearts of countless cricket fans in the Northwest and sport lovers all over the world.

"And what does he seek to gain by pursuing what seems to be a pointless case through every court in the land?"

The first part of the redevelopment was completed last year with the opening of the The Point, a large red complex to the side of the pavilion, and continued over the winter with the turning of the square 90 degrees to prevent problems caused by the setting sun in autumn.

The club has planning consent for the rest of the work and has already demolished the old double-decker stand by the tram line which is set to be replaced by the new player and media facilities.