Plans from the Jockey Club to bulldoze Kempton Park racecourse and turn it into 3,000 new homes have been scrapped – for now, at least.
The National Hunt course, which first opened its doors to the public in 1878, hosts racing throughout the year and welcomes the legendary Boxing Day meeting – a key focal point of the festive calendar, which features the King George VI Chase, the Christmas Hurdle and the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
The venue is now owned by the Jockey Club, who to great dismay announced plans back in 2017 to close the track down and sell it to property developers.
A lengthy legal battle has ensued, and it appears as though those contesting the decision have won out.
The Jokey Club and their chosen developer, Redrow Homes, have instead submitted an alternative plan which would see some of the land at Kempton Park sold but with the proviso that the racecourse stays open and operational.
It’s a massive victory for UK racing at a time when it faces a number of different obstacles, and it is a welcome – and rare – sight to see unnecessary property development plans rejected out of hand.
Jockey Club Loses the Battle and the Plot
One of the key functions of the Jockey Club is to act as a steward of British racing, by protecting the sport and facilitating ways in which it can continue to grow.
Quite how they saw the sale of one of the UK’s most beloved tracks as fulfilling that brief is anybody’s guess – perhaps it has something to do with the £115 million of debt that the Jockey Club found itself in, according to the Racing Post, at the time the original plans were revealed.
As part of their proposals they had claimed that the proceeds raised from the sale of Kempton Park to Redrow – which were estimated to be around the £100 million mark – would be reinvested back into a number of British racecourses.
The Jockey Club’s senior steward, Sandy Dudgeon, said:
“A healthy, sustainable and well-funded sport for the long term can only be achieved by investing in our sport. The need for British racing to raise significant funding to enable this is perhaps even more vital now than when our original proposals were announced.”
However, the local authority governing the Kempton jurisdiction, Spelthorne Borough, produced a 2018 assessment of the project which revealed they were loathe to lose the track given that it was ‘strongly performing’ as part of the designated green belt area.
In the end, Redrow have chosen to alter their plans and these will be presented to the council by the Jockey Club. Dudgeon confirmed:
“Having weighed up the latest information, we’ve now put forward another option alongside the original full site for their consideration. This would involve just a proportion of the available land there and allow jump and all-weather racing to continue.”
Even if a tentative green light is given, the project will go ahead without any disruption to racing at Kempton Park.