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Decision on Lord's development deferred

Ivo Tennant

May 2, 2012

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A view of Lord's from up high, England v South Africa, 1st Test, Lord's, 3rd day, July 12, 2008
A decision on the redevelopment of Lord's has been deferred © Getty Images
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It will be months, or in all probability years, before a final agreement is reached on whether MCC should proceed with any kind of 'Vision for Lord's'. A decision on whether to continue with this grandiose scheme, originally involving the rebuilding of five stands, an undercroft and a sunken real tennis court, was deferred at MCC's annual meeting on Wednesday to enable Derek Brewer, the incoming chief executive, to look at it afresh.

Brewer, who attended the packed meeting - it was delayed for 25 minutes to enable members to take their seats - starts work this week. He and Colin Maber, the architect who was instrumental in redeveloping Trent Bridge, will preside over a third working party that will decide what work, if any, should take place on MCC's leasehold land at the Nursery End.

A resolution - later withdrawn - at the meeting asked the club's 18,000 members to "ratify the decision of the MCC committee not to permit any residential development on the club's leasehold land at the Nursery End". This runs alongside Wellington Road, above disused railway tunnels. Temporary hospitality marquees, where the meeting took place, stand there for the time being.

The withdrawal was proposed by Robert Griffiths QC, the chairman of the original development committee, which was disbanded. Two further development committees, or working parties, have deliberated on this vexed project, which will have cost at least £3m since 2008 - and considerably more if Almacantar, the property developer and MCC's former business partner, succeeds in suing the club.

A further reason for the withdrawal of the resolution was to avoid more mud-slinging in the hour-long debate that had been set aside for the meeting. MCC reiterated that it has no evidence of money owed to Almacantar, which claims to have email evidence from Keith Bradshaw, the previous chief executive, that it would be paid. Almacantar is prepared to subpoena him and bring him back from Australia if necessary.

The decision to withdraw the resolution was taken by Phillip Hodson, MCC's president, after consultation with chairman Oliver Stocken and treasurer Justin Dowley. It was apparent that numerous members were not happy with the wording of the resolution and were prepared to put up with further delay. MCC now has to resolve whether to try to continue to work with Almacantar or choose another business partner, and how to make progress with Rifkind Levy Partnership, who own the head lease on the disused railway tunnels.

Stocken was re-elected chairman through considerable support but the withdrawal of the resolution will be of some embarrassment to him given his strong opposition to major elements of the original £400m development. Sir John Major, who resigned from the main committee in protest at the way its decision-making was reached, did not attend the meeting.

Numerous individuals have left the club over the past 18 months, including Bradshaw, who was originally enthusiastically in favour of sweeping changes to the ground, David Batts, the project manager, and Stephen Musgrave, a property expert, as well as members of a development committee that included Mike Atherton and Lord Grabiner QC in addition to Griffiths and Major.

Mike Griffith, a former captain of Sussex who also chaired MCC's cricket committee, was nominated at the close of the meeting to succeed Hodson as president for 2012-13. He now has to try to assist Brewer over what inevitably will be tricky and contentious decision making.

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