Garon Park Centre of Cricketing Excellence

 boosts cricket infra-structure in south Essex


In 2005 the annual county cricket festival in Southend was successfully moved from Southchurch Park, its home since 1906, to Garon Park one and a half miles to the north. Now, in the most exciting cricket development in South Essex for years there are plans to develop a Centre of Cricketing Excellence around the cricket bowl at Garon Park to encourage cricket development and coaching from grass roots to county level for schoolboys, schoolgirls and club cricketers and as a local home for representative, inter and intra district games. The first such games were played there in 2006.

This new centre at Southend is different to anything that currently exists in Essex and hopefully will become a model for further such centres elsewhere in the county. Together with the enhanced cricket development facilities being planned as part of the rebuild of the Ford County Ground at Chelmsford this marks a major investment for the 21st century in cricketing infra-structure in south and central Essex.


The Vision

To provide a top quality cricket facility for all regional developmental and excellence cricket in the South East Essex area as well as a venue for first class cricket.

Why Southend?

Over 600,000 people live in South East Essex in Southend, Rochford, Castle Point, Basildon and Thurrock; that is nearly 40% of the population in the whole county. Southend is the most densely populated region in the county. And most important the existing Garon Park infrastructure means we do not have the delays and financial hurdles of setting up a completely new green field site.

What is Garon Park?

The Garon Park site is a joint venture between the Norman Garon Trust and Southend Borough Council. It is approximately 35 hectares in size and accommodates a golf complex, a comprehensive leisure centre built in the 1990s, an athletics stadium, a golf centre as well as a county size cricket arena with ample on site parking and room for development. Until 2005 the cricketing facilities had been largely neglected but the outfield has one of the best drainage systems in the county and the facility has ample parking to accommodate large crowds. The overall site has the potential to become a local centre of excellence for a whole range of sports including cricket, football, golf and tennis. The Norman Garon Trust and Southend Borough Council are committed to support the new cricketing centre and have generously made available the cricket arena and surrounding area to the Essex Cricket Board for the development of local cricket. They are also providing some of the finance for capital improvements to the site. However there is no money available for operational needs.

Who will run the Centre?

All recreational and developmental cricket activity in Essex is channelled via the Essex County Cricket Board (ECCB) which operates through five regional district boards. Garon Park will become the cricketing centre for the South Essex District Cricket Board which is the regional board for Southend, Rochford, Castle Point, Basildon and Thurrock.

What about finance?

The public appeal launched by the Essex & Southend Sports Trust in Spring last year has so far raised over £120,000 towards its goal of developing a Cricketing Centre of Excellence for the whole of south Essex at Garon Park.

The sports charity has matched pound for pound all donations received from the public and has made a grant of £30,000 out of the appeal’s funds towards the costs of setting up the centre in 2006. This has enabled Essex to recruit a full time groundsman – Phil Burton – to work on the facility and has also contributed to adding six more performance cricket wickets to the square. This was carried out in September and means the square at Garon Park is now similar in size to the square at Chelmsford. Further grants towards operational expenditure will be made in 2007.

What will change in the next year or so?

The Essex County Cricket Board is now in negotiations with both the Norman Garon Trust, which owns the facility and Southend Borough Council about further improvements at the new ground. Plans are at an advanced stage for the ECCB to sign a formal lease covering use of the ground and priorities for the next stages of development are a permanent fence to separate the cricket area from the rest of Garon Park all the year round, a new scoreboard and four caged outdoor nets that can be used by clubs and schools in the South Essex area throughout Spring, Autumn and Summer as well as by the professionals during the annual Essex Ford Southend Cricket Festival.

What about the longer term?

Feasibility studies are underway on a number of larger capital projects including an indoor cricket school, extra toilet facilities and permanent seating. Funding would be required from bodies such as Thames Gateway and other government funded organisations. Further investment to construct an international quality stadium with floodlights has not been ruled out.

How can you help?

The public appeal’s target is to raise £200,000 towards immediate operational requirements so further patrons and donations are required. Anyone interested in helping the cause should phone trustees Joe Sims (01245 471674) or Peter Butler (01245 360385). Alternatively just send a cheque made out to Essex & Southend Sports Trust to the Ford County Ground at Chelmsford. Please make sure you enclose a note with your cheque to confirm that you wish the donation to be made under the Gift Aid Rules. This will allow the Trust to recover £22 from the Inland Revenue for every £78 donated.

A special thanks to the 27 patrons – see panel - who have each contributed £1,500 over a five year period towards the appeal. This works out to just £25 a month for those who have signed a monthly standing order for five years. Others are contributing £300 a year whilst some have paid the full £1,500 up front. Many others have made one off donations from £25 to £1,000.

Mr R T Weaver   Southend on Sea
Mr M Smith   Billericay
Mr & Mrs Suckling   Little Baddow
Mr P Lucas   Latchingdon
Mr M Raffan   Westcliff-on-Sea
Essex Boundary Club   Chelmsford
Mrs K Butler   Hadleigh
Mr A Ross Goobey   London
Mr R A G Monks   Cape Elizabeth, USA
Mr D Pitt-Watson   London
Mr P Butler   Great Waltham
Richardson Cycles   Leigh-on-Sea
Mr P Coster   Southend on Sea
Mrs S G M Edwards   Leigh-on-Sea
Mr J Jarvis   Leigh-on-Sea
Mr G Nevill   Rayleigh
A & W Benthall   Southend on Sea
Mr R Gaylor   Chelmsford
Mr A E Walton   London
Mr G Garnett   Berkshire
Mr R Calton   Leigh-on-Sea
Mr R Harvey   Hatfield Peverel
Mr D Pinkerton   Hullbridge
Fryerning Foundation   Ingatestone
Mr M G Bradley   Leigh-on-Sea
Weyerhaeuser Europe Ltd   Southend