Major changes on cards for Cromer Town FC’s Cabbell Park ground

PUBLISHED: 08:42 08 April 2014 | UPDATED: 08:42 08 April 2014

Cabbell Park home of Cromer FC.

Cabbell Park home of Cromer FC. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

The fate of footballers, doctors and patients is once again under the spotlight in Cromer as a quirky saga involving the late King Olav of Norway takes a new turn.

King’s role in Cromer Town FC

Cabbell Park was given to the people of Cromer in 1922 by local landowner Evelyn Bond Cabbell, in memory of the town’s First World War dead.

A clause in the trust agreement allowed the ground to be leased to Cromer Town Football Club until 21 years after the death of the last of Edward VII’s grandchildren – sparking a hotly-contested debate on whether that date had been reached. At first the last grandchild was believed to be King Olav of Norway, who died in 1991, meaning the club faced eviction in January 2012. But another contender was announced, the Earl of Harewood, unborn but “in being” – his mother was seven months pregnant with him – at the time the lease was signed. He died in 2011 which would have given the club another two decades at Cabbell Park.

Meanwhile Benjamin Cabbell Manners, great-grandson of Mrs Bond Cabbell, earmarked a piece of his own land on Roughton Road he hoped could be used by Cromer Town FC and Cromer Youth FC, which has been looking for a permanent base in the town for years. But the scheme was resisted by Cromer Town FC.

The plot thickened when, in March last year, Leeds United joined the fray, instructing solicitors to help Cromer Town FC stay at its home after its patron, the Earl of Harewood’s widow, expressed concern about the club’s possible eviction.

At the time, negotiations to transfer the ground to North Norfolk District Council appeared to have stalled after rumours that two trustees had not signed the deal. But the report to Monday’s council cabinet meeting says it was finally concluded last summer.

After a long struggle against a complicated historical legal clause which affected the future of Cabbell Park – Cromer Town Football Club’s Mill Road home for nearly a century – North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) looks set for another battle: to end a restrictive covenant on the land.

The council’s cabinet is set to recommend on Monday that the front part of 4.17-acre Cabbell Park is sold to the nearby Cromer Group Practice for a new surgery and the existing football pitch is moved westward within the site.

The council, which owns the site, would also look at developing a multi-use sports complex somewhere on the edge of Cromer financed through selling the rest of Cabbell Park for development. Until that happened, Cromer Town FC and Cromer Youth Football Club would be allowed to play under licence at Cabbell Park.

In a report to cabinet, corporate director Steve Blatch says the moves would allow a £3.5m investment in new medical facilities on the site, with the potential of good quality new sports provision for the town.

He adds: “It is believed that both outcomes would deliver wide community benefits which would significantly outweigh the public benefit derived from the continued use of the Cabbell Park site by Cromer Town Football Club alone.”

But NNDC’s legal advisers have said the plans would contravene the terms of a 1922 trust deed which stipulates the land is open space for public use. If pursued, the covenant would need to be “disposed of”, involving advertising a proposal and considering any objections before reaching a decision.

In August last year, the council finally cleared a previous legal hurdle when it became the official owner of Cabbell Park.

Richard Cox, secretary of Cromer Town FC, said the club had not had a chance to consider the council’s report.

He added: “It’s a disappointment because we have always wanted to stay at Cabbell Park but the new sports facilities would be brilliant for the town and Cromer does need a new surgery. It isn’t ideal but we have got to embrace it, and move forward.”

Tracy Neave, business manager at Cromer Group Practice, welcomed the report: “This will be an excellent opportunity to develop a modern healthcare facility and allow us to broaden the service,” she said.

What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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