Thurrock Council planning committee score an embarrassing own goal

Grays Athletic FC used to play at The Recreation Ground in Grays. At the end of the 2009-2010 season, the lease on the ground expired and the club were unable to agree new terms that were affordable. Grays Athletic played their last game at the ground on April 24th 2010, winning 2-1 against Forest Green Rovers. The following season, they had to ground share with East Thurrock United FC in Corringham. The Recreation Ground was subsequently developed for housing. Since then, Grays Athletic have led a nomadic existence, ground sharing with a number of clubs in the south of Essex while fighting to secure a new ground of their own.

A few weeks back, it looked as though long suffering Grays fans were close to securing a ground of their own with an offer to take up residence at Ship Lane, the former home of Thurrock FC who have ceased to exist. This report from Thurrock Nub News explains in some detail how this proposal would have worked: Local football stalwart Glyn champions call for Grays Athletic to get a chance to make Ship Lane a centre for community – 23.02.21.

Sadly, the proposal was rejected. Sometimes the planning committee at Thurrock Council get it right. When it came to the decision to allow Tilbury FC to sell their current ground at Chadfields for housing and use the money from that to build a new stadium on an adjacent site they owned, the planning committee got it right. When it came to the decision to refuse a proposal that would have given Grays Athletic the use of the stadium at Ship Lane, the planning committee scored an embarrassing own goal: Grays Athletic miss out on chance to move into new home as pressure from Aveley forces rejection of car prep plan – and chairman hints East Thurrock United may soon be homeless too – 25.02.21.

To rub salt into the wound, a number of the councillors on the planning committee did not do their homework on the ground situation regarding Grays Athletic, assuming that they in fact owned the Recreation Ground and asking what they had done with the money from the sale! This is pig ignorance taken to a new level and Grays Athletic, club and fans alike, are understandably fuming at the ill informed remarks that were made about the ground situation. This news item from Thurrock Nub News includes a fifteen minute video of an interview with one of the Grays Athletic stalwarts, Rob Seaman: Grays Athletic call for apology from councillors over misleading comments at meeting when their hopes for new ground were dashed – 27.02.21. We recommend that you watch the clip in full to hear Rob Seaman explain the situation with The Recreation Ground and to appreciate the level of hurt caused by councillors on the planning committee who could not be bothered to brief themselves in full before their deliberations.

We want to add our voice to those of Grays Athletic, club and fans alike, in calling for a full apology from the planning committee for their wilful ignorance. Rob Seaman made an interesting point in his interview with Thurrock Nub News – namely that with COVID-19 obliging councillors to meet virtually, meetings that very few people would have attended can now be watched by many more as they’re streamed live. We need to go past just watching them though. We need to note how councillors and officers alike conduct themselves and when they fall short, as they did with their crass remarks about Grays Athletic, we need to hold these people to account.

Lastly, Grays Athletic are a community orientated club. They haven’t got big money backers making grandiose promises. All they want is a permanent base they can call their own to enable them to fulfil their ambitions of being a community club. We offer them our full support in achieving that…

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