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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Newmarket not the only all-weather option one year on from Kempton axe plan

Kempton: up to 3,000 new homes could be built on the site of the racecourse
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Exactly one year after Kempton was revealed to be earmarked for closure the Jockey Club has stressed its ongoing investment at the threatened racecourse, which if bulldozed may not necessarily have its Flat fixtures switched to a new all-weather track in Newmarket.

It was on January 10 last year that the Jockey Club stunned the sport by announcing its desire to sell Kempton as part of a housing deal for in excess of £100 million.

That plan was met with fierce opposition both inside of racing and beyond. Criticism came from Kempton's MP, the local community and Spelthorne Borough Council, which was compelled by statutory requirement to issue the 'call for sites' that led to the Jockey Club stating it was "preparing for a planning application to create a new floodlit all-weather course" on land at The Links in Newmarket.

Kempton's all-weather fixtures have been earmarked for Newmarket

Newmarket was described as "a front-running option" by the Jockey Club 12 months ago. However, the Racing Post understands other options could be under consideration in the seemingly unlikely event of the Kempton project receiving the green light.

A spokesman for the Jockey Club said: "Twelve months ago we announced we were exploring our options around Kempton Park to unlock major capital to invest back into British racing. We are still awaiting the outcome of Spelthorne Borough Council’s call for sites process and at this stage their timescale is unclear.

"Since last January’s announcement we’ve continued to ensure that Kempton Park provides the best possible experience for racegoers and stakeholders.

"That includes investing in a new winning connections' facility, which we opened on Boxing Day, ground floor toilet facilities in the grandstand, and introducing free public Wi-Fi across the site, as well as increasing prize-money."

Spelthorne council leader Ian Harvey has described the council as "vehemently against" building on Kempton.

Kempton staged its popular Winter Festival, featuring the 32Red King George VI Chase, over Christmas

Giving his latest comment, Harvey said: "We recently launched the results of our green belt assessment and it shows Kempton Park is fulfilling to a very high level the purposes of green belt.

"In essence, any particular piece of land is graded in five different levels and Kempton was found to be at the very top level of fulfilling its purpose, which further reinforces the view that it remains green belt."

One of the most vocal opponents among racing professionals has been Nicky Henderson, who again stressed his support for racing continuing at Kempton.

The champion trainer said: "My views are very clear and haven't changed over the last year. I think it's crucially important we do everything we can to retain Kempton as it's a vital part of jumps racing, which would be severely dented without it."

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Any particular piece of land is graded in five different levels and Kempton was found to be at the very top level of fulfilling its purpose
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