On its way ... the old stand at the County Ground © Jenny Thompson
Essex's redevelopment of the County Ground should begin next year after the club exchanged contracts with the developers and local authority.

The ambitious plans allow for most of the existing ground to be rebuilt, with the capacity increasing by around 2000 to 8000. New residential, retail, hospitality and banqueting facilities, together with an entrance piazza and river bridge to Central Park, will provide a much-needed regeneration. A new multi-storey car park will replace the existing surface car parking facility at New Writtle Street, and the new Graham Gooch Cricket Centre will provide state of the art practice and coaching facilities.

Initial work might begin late in 2008 but, regardless of that, Essex will play home matches at Chelmsford for the next two seasons. However, home cricket in 2010 will be taken to various outgrounds while the major work is completed at the site. The stadium development is scheduled to be finished in December 2010 and will be fully operational for the 2011 season.

"Our plans are well advanced which will mean a high-quality development of apartments around the ground together with some restaurants and bars," Keith Brown, Essex's treasurer, said. "These will finance the rebuilding of our facilities to a standard that benefits our players, members, staff and public."