The oldest cricket club in the world is in danger of being shut down after a ten year battle with its leaseholders, campaigners say.
Mitcham Cricket Club has been running for over 300 years and is currently locked in a battle with developers who bought the freehold to its cricket pavilion more than a decade ago.
The pavilion lies on the grounds of an abandoned pub called the Burn Bullock which was bought by property developers Phoenix Limited in 2008.
The cricket club originally had a lease with the previous owners of the pub but claims that new owners Phoenix Limited have been unresponsive to their requests to renew it.
Phoenix Limited said it is willing to renew the lease once a comprehensive plan for the site has been agreed.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said she was confident no planning permission would be approved that would put the future of the cricket club in jeopardy.
“All payments have been refused and the owners will not put anything in writing,” Julia Gault, Secretary of Mitcham Cricket Club said.
“We are not convinced after ten years of stalemate that there is going to be a solution.
“The uncertain way that the lease currently stands means we are unable to apply for grants to improve the facilities at the club,” she said.
On June 25, a public consultation was held by Phoenix Limited to outline their plans for the site.
The company revealed a plan to build a hotel in the car park of the Burn Bullock pub which would involve knocking down a shed used by the club to store cricket bats and other sporting equipment.
“The hotel would demolish our shed, we would have nowhere to keep all of our equipment,” Ms Gault said.
“They would encroach on the cricket club and it is not clear whether or not we would have a viable space to continue operating as one.”
She said the club approached Phoenix Limited at the consultation about the renewal of the lease on the pavilion.
“They said they won’t talk about the lease until planning permission for the flats had been granted,” she said.
“At that point they will have no incentive to grant it.”
Marcus Beale, the architect hired by Phoenix Limited to design the new project spoke to the Standard on behalf of the developers: “The owners are willing to renew the lease, or to sell the freehold, once a comprehensive plan for the site has been agreed.
“They are not willing to renew the lease before this, because if the cricket club put a fence around their part of the site it would prevent the development of the site as a whole,” he said.
Ms McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, said: “I think a hotel would be a great addition on the site.
“But I am confident no planning permission will be granted that will put the future of the cricket club in jeopardy,” she said.
According to Mr Beale, at the meeting in June both parties agreed to negotiate the terms of a lease ready for it to be implemented once planning permission is achieved.
However, Ms Gault said she was not happy to wait to implement the lease.
“Once they have permission the value of the land will go up. They suggested that our lease could go up to £20,000 a year.
“That is the total turnover of the cricket club.”
“We are an amateur club, we can’t raise that kind of money.”
The club currently has between 150 and 200 members with an age range between 5 to 80 years of age.
Currently it has four adult male sides, a new ladies squad and three junior teams.
“We have people from virtually every cricket playing nation who play at our club.
“We’ve got people from Irish backgrounds; Sri Lankan, Indian, Afghani, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, it really is so ethnically diverse and welcomes all members of the community,” she said.
The Cricket Club has set up a Go Fund Me page in an attempt to raise enough money to buy back the lease and bring the Mitcham Cricket Pavilion into community ownership so that it can be protected.
The Club said it has been overwhelmed by the support to save the pavilion.
“A statement we put out on Twitter about the pavilion received over 1000 retweets,” Ms Gault.
“We have had emails from people all over the world saying it would be a travesty if it was shut.”
“It is a part of history, it is like a national treasure being threatened.
“We are a small club of all volunteers but we are part of the future and we are part of helping kids who love cricket pursue their passion,” she said.