Training Ground project update

19th August, 2013

It has been widely reported in recent weeks that CPFC2010 recently purchased the CPFC Beckenham training ground from its landlord for £2.3M, as a result it has been decided that the training ground project is now on hold for the medium term.

For more than a year the Trust had been working to secure a larger site at Trenham Drive, Warlingham, which is currently owned by the Post Office Sports and Social Club (POSSC). However, following further discussions with the club it was decided not to proceed with this site at this time. The workload on the directors and everyone else at the club has risen dramatically since promotion and the focus is now on improving the stadium and securing players for the upcoming season.

Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish explained the decision further on fans forum the BBS:

“The Trust have been a huge help on the training ground issue. Without their diligence we would have had no knowledge of what other options there were and the fact that they are quite limited. We just wanted to make sure we secured our occupation of the current site and were not placed in a difficult situation at some point in the future or forced to buy Warlingham when we have some on-going concerns about planning, transport links for the kids and its general location. In an ideal world we would find somewhere that has more grass, but is still an ‘inner city’ location befitting the nature of us as a club and also ensuring our local talent doesn’t have miles to travel.

“I would like to personally thank Lesley and Alan and everyone at the Trust who not only continue to care passionately about the club but also give up huge chunks of their own time for free to help. I can’t stress enough how important the work they have done led us to a decision to acquire Beckenham. We will continue to work with them on other options. I visited Spurs training ground which is 77 acres, so you can see that if we are successful in this division for a prolonged period we will still need to move or find a second site at some point.”

Although the Trust is disappointed that the project did not ultimately come to fruition at this time, we are absolutely delighted that CPFC have been able to secure the Beckenham site, and it is truly a very exciting time for the club as it looks to develop on and off the pitch.

The Trust would like to thank Steve Parish, Phil Alexander, and Dougie Freedman for their involvement in the project. We would also like to thank everyone at the POSSC for all their work in getting the project to this point, particularly Barry Maynard who spent a great deal of time with the Trust. Gerry Ryan and architects TP Bennett also played a significant role in the project and the Trust appreciates all of their work on it. Thanks also must go to all the fans who contacted the Trust with suggestions of sites, all of which were followed up on and researched.

The Trust is looking to have its AGM on the 26 September, where its future direction will be debated. We will be looking to collect as many views as possible as to what fans want and modelling its future direction on the feedback received.

Let’s look forward to the coming season after a greatly encouraging performance against Spurs on Sunday!

PROJECT HISTORY

CPFC2010 and the Trust met soon after the purchase of the club in June 2010 to discuss how the Palace fan base could help the club, and one of the ideas to come out of the meeting was the need for a new training facility. This need was driven by the fact the club was paying an increasing yearly rent on the Beckenham premises, and the present site was perceived as being too small. A new training facility, owned by the fans, and rented out to the club at a favourable rate would be an ideal solution.

The Trust immediately began to search for suitable land that would fit the club’s criteria. The challenge was considerable: such land needed to be near enough to the club to serve its current catchment area for the best young talent; be of sufficient size; and of course be affordable. Naturally such land was at a premium, and eagerly sought after by developers, free / faith schools and the like, which made the affordability issue particularly difficult.

Local councils were approached for possible sites, as well as enquiries made directly to existing land owners. Croydon Council offered a site at Ashburton Playing Fields on a long lease; benefits included the land being big enough and it being close to the Oasis Academy, with downsides including lack of fencing and existing facilities as well as the lack of freehold. With no alternatives at that time on the table, the Trust engaged further with Croydon Council but was left extremely disappointed when the Council withdrew its offer after pressure from local residents.

With lessons learnt from the experience, and a great deal of valuable work already completed including initial architect design works, the Trust once again looked for a site. In 2012 the Trust approached the Post Office Sports and Social Club at Trenham Drive in Warlingham after learning that the site may be put up for sale. Following many meetings with members of the POSSC committee, the Trust engaged with CPFC to ascertain whether they would be happy with the site. Then manager Dougie Freedman, Chief Executive Phil Alexander, and the Head Groundsman all visited the site and were impressed, giving the Trust the mandate to go ahead and try to secure it. The Trust also held an initial meeting with Tandridge Council to sound out their opinion on the site and advice to assist with any potential planning application.

The site was far larger than Beckenham, giving enough room for all the pitches required by the club, was already a pre-existing sporting facility with good building footprint, and had very good perimeter fencing. One issue that was discussed at length was the accessibility of the site for Academy players, however it was felt that access was adequate and that in fact the majority of their time was spent at the Crystal Palace National Stadium facility.

Separate, independent valuations of the site were made by the POSSC and the Trust, and after much negotiations, a price agreed. The POSSC committee then took this proposal to its membership who mandated them to sell the site at the highest price possible, with the Trust in pole positions as a credible buyer. Further negotiations then centred around the option agreement i.e. the agreement that would be needed between the Trust and the POSSC on the purchase of the site. The Trust drew this up, with key points including the purchase being contingent on the adequate amount of money being raised and planning permission being given. At the same time initial discussions were held with the club as to an agreement between the Trust (potential landlord) and CPFC (tenants).

In the meantime the POSSC committee sought further clarifications on the option agreement. While this was happening CPFC progressed to the play-offs and were promoted, putting the club in a much more favourable financial position. Then in the close season the landlord of the Beckenham Training Ground informed the club that he was putting up the site for auction at short notice. An offer of direct purchase by the club was rejected and so the site went rapidly to auction.

The club was faced with a difficult decision that had to be made immediately. Five days before the auction Phil Alexander took Steve Parish to the Trenham Drive site, where he was shown round by members of the Trust Board and the POSSC committee. The site was then discussed with the Palace management team the following day. The club proceeded to secure ownership of the Beckenham site through auction for £2.3M, thus becoming their own landlords and saving nearly £200,000 a year in rental fees, as well as securing an asset at a time when the club had the financial wherewithal to do so.

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