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Town football club boss seeks unexpired lease for pitch improvements

PUBLISHED: 12:16 09 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:36 15 May 2018

King's Lynn Town chairman Stephen Cleeve. Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town chairman Stephen Cleeve. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

A football club boss is hoping to secure a longer lease on a council-owned stadium to make much-needed pitch improvements.

King’s Lynn Town Football Club chairman Stephen Cleeve said a longer lease of The Walks stadium, which is owned by West Norfolk council, could attract grants needed to make vital improvements to the grounds.

The pitch has been criticised in the past for poor playing conditions during bad weather, with Ian Culverhouse, the club’s former manager who left at the end of season, airing his disappointment at the state of the pitch.

Speaking to Nick Conrad on BBC Radio Norfolk, Mr Cleeve said he had been in talks with the council over the stadium lease, which includes the car park, for nearly a year.

He said ideally he would like the lease to be 125 to 150 years in order to secure big grants to resolve drainage problems and to possibly bring in a plastic pitch, which require 25 years on the lease at the time of getting the grant.

He added: “You can’t play football on a bad pitch, that’s why the pitch is so important to the team. The better the pitch the better the football, it’s a simple equation.”

He said a lease was issued in January this year with favourable terms, but it had been retracted and changed by the council causing a few “sticky points.”

Alistair Beales, cabinet member for corporate projects and assets, said he had not seen the terms of the lease which is why it had changed.

He told Nick Conrad he got involved in the discussion quite late and blamed the retracted lease on the lack of communication.

He said a longer unexpired lease was not unreasonable, and that the council and the club must strike a balance with taxpayer interests and the commercial interests of the club.

Other factors that needed to be considered included the car park, the free access to The Walks and the park itself. 
He said Mr Cleeve currently has 17 years on the lease which he can renew for 15 years, and the council proposed that the club have an automatic right to make changes to the car park if they were promoted.

“The interests do align and I think we’ll arrive to a very satisfactory conclusion,” Mr Beales added.

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