Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is asking its members to resolve a long-running disagreement over the future development of Lord's.
The club, which owns the ground, has contacted all 18,000 members seeking a clear, unequivocal solution to a saga that has dragged on for the best part of a decade and persuaded former Prime Minister, John Major, to resign from the MCC committee in 2012.
There are two choices.
The first, named the Updated Masterplan, was put together by MCC and suggests utilising the club's own funds to improve the Compton and Edrich stands (capacity would increase by 2,000) and a new East Gate Building, which would effectively replace the hospitality facility on the Nursery Ground. This, the club states, could be completed by 2027. It would cost £89 million, which could come from the club's own funds, leaving them with £33 million remaining in the bank. The Masterplan would subsequently be completed (by 2032) with the redevelopment of the Tavern and Allen stands at the Pavilion End, and the North Gate at the Nursery End. To fund this, the club would require short-term borrowings, peaking at £28m in 2031, but cash reserves would be restored to £21m by 2035.
The second, named the Morley Plan after the architect behind the idea, proposes building two ten-storey apartment blocks either side of a new Nursery Pavilion which would be leased to the MCC. That residential development (it would contain 97 apartments and ground floor commercial space) would fund the redevelopment of the Compton and Edrich stands (by 2034; it would take longer as capital would only be released after the residential accommodation is completed) and would leave the club with £111 million of cash in the bank by 2027. The developers have also offered a sweetener of £15 million to members to cover two years of their subs in acknowledgement of the disruption the building operation will cause.
The developers behind the Morley Plan are the Rifkind Levy Partnership (RLP). Charles Rifkind, an investor and cousin of former Conservative minister Malcolm Rifkind, outbid MCC in 1999 to buy (for £2.35 million) a long-term lease on a 38-metre strip of land running the length of Lord's at the Nursery End. It means that, while MCC own the lease for the top 18 inches of land, Rifkind owns the disused train tunnels that lie under the surface. RLP are offering £100 million in return for MCC relinquishing its lease to enable building work to progress, as well as £35 million to excavate the tunnels and create parking and storage space. With the sweetener included, the offer is worth £150 million.
While MCC have not made any recommendation, there are some doubts expressed over details concerning the Morley Plan. The Review of Development Plans sent to members states "significant issues are unresolved concerning… the effect of residential accommodation within the Ground on security and operations, and whether the plans provide adequate space for the cricket needs of Lord's". They also point out that their hospitality facility will be direct neighbours with residential developments and that gaining planning permission for the project could prove difficult given the location's proximity to St John's Wood Church Gardens.
A key point of difference centres on the redevelopment of the Compton and Edrich stands. While the Masterplan suggests it would be necessary to extend the stands on to the area currently occupied by the Nursery Ground playing surface (and to ensure less congestion on major match days), it also suggests retaining the specifications of the playing area by extending it on to the land currently occupied by the temporary Nursery Pavilion and ensuring the retention of 42 net facilities. The Morley Plan suggests the stands need not stretch further back and there will not be any reduction of the Nursery Ground playing area.
Neither plan suggests starting work ahead of the 2019 World Cup final, which is scheduled to be held at Lord's. The ground will continue to host cricket throughout the development period.
Members have been sent a mountain of information providing details of the two options. They have also been invited to fill out a survey and attend meetings at venues around the country (in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, as well as at Lord's) at which they can learn more and give their own views.
The MCC committee will meet at the end of July to review the feedback and make a recommendation. The membership will then vote on that recommendation at a Special General Meeting at the end of September. If they back the committee's proposal, the issue can be considered resolved and development can begin. If they do not, the issue could well overshadow the next chief executive's period at the helm as it has the current one.
The club's CEO, Derek Brewer, stands down a couple of days after the SGM and will be replaced by current Somerset CEO, Guy Lavender.