Cromer football ground plan is chance to boost facilities

Football and council officials say a relocation of Cromer's historic football ground to a new site including youth teams would provide a real opportunity to improve sports facilities in the town.

But with time ticking down to an end-of-lease deadline next January they are keen to get all the sides in the complex saga agreeing the way forward.

Local doctors are keen to use part of the current Cabbell Road ground for a new surgery, which with some housing would pay for the high-flying senior club to move to a new site off Roughton Road.

And the youth football club, catering for 250 youngsters on three different sites, wants to share the new ground if the funding and will are there.

But the senior club, currently runaway leaders of the Anglian Combination, say they need to be convinced the move will be viable in the long run.

And officials have conceded that if push comes to shove the priority must be ensuring the future of Cromer Town.

North Norfolk District Council and Football Association officials are working behind the scenes to find funding to accommodate the youth players and oil the wheels of the complex saga triggered by a quirky clause in the historic Cabbell Park ground lease.

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The ground was given to the town by Evelyn Bond Cabbell of Cromer Hall in 1922. A quirky clause of its lease runs out 21 years after the death of King Edward VII's last grandchild, King Olav who died in 1991.

After two meetings of all the parties, council chief executive Philip Burton said he was now having talks with each group separately in a bid to broker a way forward and he remained optimistic.

'We are trying to thrash things out. A lot of people see this as a great opportunity for sport in Cromer.

'We need all the parties to come together and move it on,' added Mr Burton.

A combination of development of part of Cabbell Park and top-up grant funding should enable a new integrated adult and youth ground, with early estimates ranging between �750,000 and �1.5m.

Football club chairman Paul Jarvis said: 'We would love to stay at Cabbell Park, but realise the chances of that are quite slim.

'We are keeping an open mind, and we cannot say we will not move. It could see the end the club, but so could moving to somewhere that is not sustainable.'

They had concerns about the site – where the land sloped and contained overhead power cables – and whether it would be as attractive as the current one for the car boot sales which were another important source of income.

A straw poll of stallholders feared fewer people would come to the edge of the town site, as many customers walked to the ground while on holiday in Cromer.

Mr Jarvis said with finance and planning issues to be dealt with he could not see any move being completed until 2015, but believed there was scope for a limited extension of the lease beyond the deadline.

Youth football club chairman Chris Lightfoot said they remained upbeat about being part of a new facility. The club now had 11 teams scattered across three locations at Cromer High School, Northrepps and East Runton which all cost money to hire, and would benefit from being on a single site.

'There are still lots of hurdles in the way including finance, but we are positive,' he added.

Norfolk FA development manager Gavin Lemmon said it had a role ensuring the resulting scheme was the best for football in the Cromer area. They were providing technical advice and help on what grants might be available.

There was scope for three full size and two or three mini soccer pitches at the 10 acre site on the left of Roughton Road heading out of Cromer, but ensuring the senior club got improved facilities was the priority.

GP surgery manager Sara Ponder said they were still 'really keen' to move, and their developers had met at the site to set about costing the project.

Park trustee Benjamin Cabbell-Manners said he thought things were moving ahead slowly and 'hopefully Cromer will end up with a good set of sporting facilities.'