McManus speaks out against JCR's Kempton plans
Leading racehorse owner JP McManus is understood to have spoken against the Jockey Club's plans to sell Kempton for development when members got the chance to give their views at a well-attended meeting last week, although the majority gave their backing to the controversial scheme.
Last Monday's quarterly meeting of the Jockey Club was the first since January's announcement that British racing's biggest commercial enterprise intended to sell the Kempton Park site for 3,000 new homes with the intention of raising at least £100 million to be invested elsewhere in the group.
Those plans have been met with a storm of protest from across British racing, including from a number of Jockey Club members, who number just 165.
It is understood that among those members who attended the meeting in order to voice their opposition to the plans was McManus, who is an honorary member of the Jockey Club. He did not wish to comment when approached by the Racing Post at Cheltenham last week.
Unsurprisingly the issue of Kempton was top of the agenda for the meeting, described by one member as one of the best-attended they could remember, and it took up much of the proceedings.
Discussions centred around the main details of the Jockey Club's plans, which also propose the construction of a new all-weather course at Newmarket and the development of Sandown into a London 'super track' that would stage the King George VI Chase after Kempton's closure.
Majority supported plan
It is understood the majority of members were supportive of the Jockey Club's plans, although there was consensus that the unveiling of the project could have been handled better. Concerns about the racing surface at Sandown were also discussed at length.
Jockey Club group chief executive Simon Bazalgette was unwilling to discuss details of the meeting.
However, he said: "There was plenty of support from members, but they wanted to fully understand the plans and ensure it is done properly in the best interests of British racing. This reflects the wider feedback we’ve had from stakeholders in the sport."
The Jockey Club last month dismissed as inaccurate press reports that it was looking at an alternative plan to partially develop the site and spare the racecourse.
It said it was awaiting the outcome of Spelthorne Borough Council's local plan review process.
Bazalgette added: "Our plans remain on course. The next stage is likely in several months' time when we hear back from the council about the submissions they have received following their call for sites and green belt review."
Spelthorne council leader Ian Harvey has voiced his vehement opposition to the plan, which would mean not only the end of racing at Kempton but the loss of green belt land.
Kempton raced over jumps on Saturday, after which another leading owner Simon Munir tweeted: "Great racing today at Kempton Park –sad to think that in a few years' time Kempton could be no more. Kempton is more than just Boxing Day."