Cradley Heathens News Archive

2001 - 2003

 

5th January 2001

BARRATTS SHAMED AGAIN ON TV

The ailing reputation of Barratt Homes was battered once again on national television last night - less than twelve months after the last TV investigation. The edition of ITV's Tonight with Trevor McDonald reported on a major investigation held into the operation of Barratts, which focused on sites in the North of England. Using secret cameras and an undercover builder, it described findings as "shoddy workmanship and total disdain for the complaints of customers".
In a separate investigation, a Government backed survey by the housing forum was reported to find that Barratt's standards are "below the industry average in both quality of houses and the service it provides". Comically set to the theme music of Bob the Builder, the lengthy programme article hammered the public image of the company who have already earned a terrible reputation amongst Speedway fans the breadth of the country, and it stated that representatives had declined repeated invitations to appear in their own defence. Disgruntled customers complained about collapsed ceilings, rat infestations and "DIY standards", all due to the work on Barratt's part.
Meanwhile, following the suggestions of last month's Editorial article, correspondence has been received from the office of the Chief Executive of Barratts plc. It states that the head of the company's West Midland department is looking into the case of Dudley Wood, and his findings are due to be passed on shortly.


12th January 2001

BARRATTS DECIDE TO PURSUE INTEREST IN DUDLEY WOOD

Barratt West Midlands decided at a divisional board meeting on Tuesday to pursue their interest in building a housing scheme on the site of Dudley Wood. They stated in a letter last week that they were "seeking Counsel's advice to determine whether there is a way forward or whether [they] should, in fact, abort any further dealings on the scheme". However, after an investigation into the facts surrounding the case, along with some questionable legal advice, the ill-fated housing giants will press on with their proposals. The consideration to quit their interest came on the back of the web site appeal for polite letters to the company, stating the facts of the case so far. Communication was then received from both the Chairman and Chief Executive of the plc board, as well as the main West Mids Board Director, Mr.Harold Walker.
Halesowen-based regional manager John Payne said "Barratt Homes is considering the refusal reasons given by the local authority and the inspectors report at the subsequent appeal. We are still committed to pursue a housing scheme on the land".
They must now try to find reasons to appeal against the recent planning refusal and face a race against time as the Dudley UDP is in the latter stages of development. The company is still objecting to the council's proposals, but are up against an overwhelming 300 letters of support.
Bob Edwards, for CRASH commented: "This is good news in that Barratt is considering the future and the possibility of pulling out. It is encouraging they are investigating the situation. They now have two battles to fight, an appeal against the new zoning for leisure in the Unitary Development Plan and another appeal against the council's latest refusal."
Jane Beese of the Express & Star reported the news very positively in Friday's edition of the newspaper after the Thursday night confirmation had ended a week of speculation about the possible outcome of the board meeting.

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31st March 2001

LONG EATON CASE TO SET PRECEDENT?

The remarkable similarities between the case of Dudley Wood and that of Long Eaton's Station Road Speedway & Stock Car stadium are continuing, with the Invaders' plight seemingly one step ahead of our own.
A new public inquiry has been set for the end of May to consider an appeal against Erewash Borough Council's decision to refuse a planning application for the site. The stadium is in the hands of receivers, Weatherall, Green and Smith who want to see 144 houses built on the land, but campaigners are fighting to block the move. Support to retain the sports facility has come from local MPs, as well as Minister for Sport, Kaye Hoey, and a huge motorsports company are keen to re-build the stadium.
Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the decision is likely to have an effect on the battle for Dudley Wood. Should Barratts make an appeal to force another public inquiry, as is expected, then Long Eaton will have already set a precedent for a decision.
The deadline for submissions regarding the Station Road site has just been extended to 13th April. If you would like to bolster their campaign, and add your support for the return of Speedway, you can write to the following address: DETR, Tollgate House, Houlston Street, Bristol, BS2 9DJ. You should quote reference APP/N1025/A01/1058254: Long Eaton Sports Stadium, Station Road, Long Eaton.
Meanwhile, of interest to both clubs' campaign organisations will be last week's publication of a draft revision to Planning Policy PPG17, relating to Sports and Leisure Facilities. In layman's terms, this is the document which has been under review for what seems like years and has already led to Dudley Wood being discussed in the House of Commons. It specifically refers to guidelines about the retention of sporting facilities and any proposals for their change of use. Dudley MP, Ian Pearson was enthusiastic enough about the news to contact CRASH spokesman Bob Edwards. You can view the document for yourself at www.planning.detr.gov.uk

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20th April 2001

CRASH RESPOND TO GOVERNMENT POLICY REVIEW

Cradley supporters action group CRASH (Cradley Raising Aid Saving Heathens) have responded to the Government's draft revision of their planning policy guidance (ppg17) on sport & recreation.
The publication of the review, as reported here on the web site last month (see below), is in part a response to Ian Pearson MP's maiden speech in the House of Commons when he raised the issue of the demolition of Dudley Wood Stadium. The hope is that the Government will increase the pressure on councils to retain much needed sports facilities, and the report has reflected this.
Bob Edwards of CRASH said "We welcome the Government's proposals as they significantly reduce the possibility of the stadium site being redeveloped for housing. We have been through the proposals and will be making a few suggestions to strengthen them still further".
"This is yet another blow to Barratts, who have now suffered three planning rejections and also need to find a way of overturning the Council's proposal to zone the site as a leisure facility in the new Unitary Development Plan." They have until the end of May to appeal against the latest rejection by the Council.

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24th April 2001

BARRATTS TO APPEAL AT LAST?

According local newspapers and the Speedway press, Barratts will finally be appealing against Dudley Council's decision to refuse planning permission for a second time.
The news first appeared in last Saturday's Evening Mail and has sice filtered through to teletext, Heathens clubcall and this week's Speedway Star. Barratts had a May deadline as to whether they would respond to their latest rejection, so the news comes as little surprise.
If an appeal does go through and a second public inquiry is called, the case for a speedway return seems stronger than ever and is likely to attract the support of the hoardes of Cradley fans who have remained loyal to the cause.
Barratt (West Midlands) Managing Director John Payne said: "We feel confident the planning inspector will take note of a number of changes to government guidelines". However, Dudley Council's Head of Planning John Mainwaring said: "As far as we are concerned Dudley Wood is designated recreation land and should not be developed for housing."
More news to follow on the web site as soon as it is known.

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30th April 2001

BARRATTS DOUBLE THREAT WITH NEW APPLICATION

After announcing their decision to appeal against Dudley Council's latest rejection, Barratt have also submitted a fresh application to build houses on Dudley Wood.
No-one can see any point in them doing this from a planning perspective so the conclusion being drawn is that it is a calculated move to distract both the council and speedway supporters from doing the necessary work to fight the appeal.
CRASH spokesman Bob Edwards is urging fans to get behind the campaign again "Once again we need to ask the fans, and anyone else who cares about saving a Black Country institution, to write to oppose Barratts application and we will need to ask them to do the same when the appeal dates are set. Barratts are clearly trying to wear us all down".
We have already won this argument three times, but since the last round, our case has benefitted from both council and government policies. As long as we can once again show public support, we stand a better chance than ever of over-throwing the development plans.
Fans should write now to Roger Johnson, Chief Planning Officer, Dudley MBC, 3 St James Road, Dudley, DY1 1HZ. The reference number is P01/0645 and the closing date is the 11th May - less than two weeks away.
See also the new topic for discussion on the Fans Forum.

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18th May 2001

DUDLEY'S NEW MAYOR BACKS HEATHENS CAMPAIGN!

The new mayor of Dudley starts his year in office today and his first pledge is to campaign for the return of Cradley Speedway to Dudley Wood.
John Walters has been a Heathens supporter since 1960 and after serving as deputy mayor for the borough, will now move into the top job with one mission firmly in his sights. Walters has publicly backed the Dudley Wood campaign throughout the ongoing battle, and has more recently become the Speedway's main council ally since the departure of Cllr David Savage.
He succeeded Cllr George Davies at Thursday night's council meeting and immediately announced "I will be putting my efforts in to get the Heathens back to Dudley Wood". The 52-year old father of two has long been a friend of Cradley Speedway and indeed this web site, and his backing comes as a major boost. He will be up against Barratt's new planning application and at least one expected public inquiry, but the wealth of support behind the case will give the new mayor every confidence that the dream he shares with all Cradley supporters could finally be a reality.

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28th May 2001

GUNDERSEN ADDS SUPPORT TO DUDLEY WOOD BATTLE

The man voted by web site visitors as the Greatest Ever Heathen has spoken of his sadness at the current state of Dudley Wood. Three-times World Champion Erik Gundersen visited Britain as manager of the Danish Test Team who were scheduled to ride at Wolverhampton recently. Unfortunately, the meeting was cancelled due to rain, but Gundersen took the opportunity to visit some familar sights and catch up with a few old friends.
Interviewed for both Speedway Star and the Heathens Clubcall, the Cradley legend described the Dudley Wood situation as "absolutely terrible". He went on to say that "Speedways been a part of Cradley Heath for so many years, they deserve to have their own Speedway stadium".
Emphasising his backing of the Heathens fans, he added "I hope that they can keep on fighting and something can come out of it for the Black Country people".
Erik rode in over 450 matches for Cradley, achieving a remarkable career average not far short of 10.00. He currently leads the list of riders nominated by web visitors in the All-Time Cradley Dream Teams.

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29th May 2001

DATES ANNOUNCED FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY

The Planning Inspectorate have announced their suggestion that Barratts' Appeal against the latest refusal of planning permission at Dudley Wood be heard on 15th, 16th & 17th August. The most likely venue is Dudley Council House where the last public inquiry was heard in 1996.
Bob Edwards of CRASH said, "We are pleased that such an early date has been suggested and we look forward to presenting our case again. I have already begun to prepare our submission. There have been many developments since Barratts lost their last appeal and we believe that they all favour the return of speedway to the site.
"By contrast, Barratts' grounds for appeal are very similar to those that failed to win in 1997."
The news comes just as Long Eaton have finished their own public inquiry under very similar circumstances to that of Cradley Speedway. The decision regarding planning permission for the Invaders' Station Road site is now under consideration. As with the last appeal hearing regarding Dudley Wood, the case was heard over several days including noise and planning experts, plus representatives from speedway supporters, previous and prospective promoters and local residents.
Bob Edwards added, "Although we are not especially asking fans to attend the hearing, I am sure that some will wish to observe proceedings, as the fate of one of the most famous teams in Speedway is decided for the fourth time."

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11th July 2001

BARRATTS WITHDRAW FROM APPEAL

In an amazing eleventh hour U-turn, Barratts have decided to withdraw their appeal against their refused planning application, which was scheduled to be heard at a Public Inquiry from the 15th to 17th August. Inexplicably, they will now appeal against the second of their two applications.
Bob Edwards from CRASH said, "The situation is rapidly becoming farcical. Barratts called for this appeal and the prospect of losing the argument for the fifth time has obviously made them reconsider.
Our own submission to the Inspectorate was complete and ready for posting and the same applies to Promotors, Developers, Speedway Authorities and others. A lot of people have been put to great trouble and expense to fight an appeal that has now been withdrawn. This is extremely unprofessional."
This second application was refused by Dudley Council for a number of reasons

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17th August 2001

NEW APPEAL DATE SET FOR DUDLEY WOOD

The date of Tuesday 20th November has been set by the planning inspectorate to hear Barratt's latest appeal against their refused planning application to build on Dudley Wood.
Dudley Council have turned down two separate applications in the last twelve months, and although the housing company decided to appeal against both cases, they subsequently pulled out of the last date to concentrate on the latter rejection. The council had already refused the initial application to build houses on the site five years ago and this decision was supported at an appeal inqury.
The most likely venue for this public inquiry, to consider the appeal case, is Dudley Council house and it is expected to last for up to six days. Bob Edwards of CRASH said "After Barratt's last minute decision to withdraw from the appeal that was due to be heard this week, we are pleased that another date has been set and we look forward to presenting our case again. There have been many developments since Barratts lost their last appeal in 1997 and we believe that they all favour the return of Speedway to the site".
One of these developments is the appeal decision on the similar case involving Long Eaton's stadium which was recently resolved by the planning inspectorate. It was found that the Station Road stadium should be retained for sports use, and speedway supporters will now be united in hoping for the same decision on Dudley Wood.
The lines of appeal will consider several aspects of the case including Government planning guidelines about sporting facilities, use of brownfield sites and noise levels. The case against the appeal will be defended by Dudley Council, with support from CRASH to represent the massive public opinion of speedway supporters. The 600 letters of objection sent in to oppose the original application will all be eligble for consideration by the appointed planning inspector and have been passed through the necessary channels.
Anyone wishing to write a further letter to outline their views should address it to Mr L.Hutt, Planning Inspectorate, 3/01 Kite Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN. Quote reference number: APP/C4615/A/01/1067956 (Site at land off Dudley Wood Road).

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30th September 2001

PREPARATIONS CONTINUE FOR PUBLIC ENQUIRY

The second public inquiry into the case of Dudley Wood is drawing ever closer and CRASH are reaching the final stages of preparing their case to once again support the refusal of Barratt's planning application.
Dudley Council rejected this application on four grounds, all of which remain entirely valid, and they have begun circulating notice of the appeal dates to interested parties.
The main reason of refusal is the loss of a major sports facility. This side of our case is strengthened by 'ppg17', a national government guideline relating to all sports and recreation sites. A second crucial issue is the local guidelines set out in the unitary development plan, for which hundreds of Cradley fans wrote letters of support last year. This refers to retaining open land, and particularly applies to Dudley Wood where the site is a buffer between industry and existing housing. The other two points refer to the contentious issue of whether or not there is a noise nuisance from the drop forge next door, and Barratts will no doubt pursue their argument that this will not cause a problem to their dwellings. [At the last inquiry they argued that the noise was not a problem, as long as all the residents kept their windows permanently closed!]; And finally the adverse impact on the employment situation, brought about by over 100 new households.
Dudley Council will provide their own barrister, different to the ironically named Mr.Barratt who successfully defended them last time, and the main case will be fought out between the council and Barratt West Midlands, in front of an independent inspector. Other parties will also throw their hat into the ring and give evidence and they do not need to be 'called' as in a court case. Anyone may speak, at the discretion of the inspector. There is no need for speedway supporters to stand and put their case though, as we will be represented collectively by Bob Edwards and CRASH (Cradley Raising Aid Saving Heathens). Other parties may include directors of the speedway club and prospective promoters, and on the last occasion also involved David Hughes as manager of the Speedway Control Board.
The inquiry, to be held in the council chamber, starts at 10am on Tuesday 20th November and is scheduled to last for six days.

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17th November 2001

HEATHENS v BARRATTS - ROUND FIVE!

It could be billed as the Fifth Round in the six-year battle between the Heathens and Barratts over the use of Dudley Wood. You'd be forgiven for thinking that things might be getting a little stale and predictable by now, but you may well be sorely mistaken! One of the worst kept secrets in the campaign was due to be revealed tonight at Club CH's End of Season Party: The developer backing the fight to restore the Heathens' former home is Kidderminster businessman and current speedway promoter, Tony Mole. The current Workington supremo watched his earliest Speedway races from the Dudley Wood terraces and will appear at next week's public inquiry to state his intention of buying the stadium land and bringing back the much-missed combination of shale and methanol. Alongside him will be Swindon Promoter Peter Toogood, representing the BSPA as they offer their valuable support.
The inquiry kicks off with a bang at 10am on Tuesday 20th November at the Council House in Dudley, and is scheduled to last a total of six days. Barratts will be appealing against the decision earlier this year which refused outline planning on the site. Their first application was turned down in 1996 and subsequently thrown out at appeal stage by a DETR inspector the following year. A further application went down the pan in November 2000 and the company withdrew their proposed appeal against that decision at the last minute this Summer.
Bob Edwards of CRASH who will represent the views of the Cradley Heath fans at the inquiry is more confident than ever of a Heathens victory this time. He reiterated "We have already won the argument four times and we hope that a further rejection will finally persuade Barratts to move on to other options rather than continuing to waste their shareholders money on pursuing this one". The web site will provide a portal to the ongoing proceedings of the case next week, so you can get all the news first right here!

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27th November 2001

PUBLIC INQUIRY OVER & DECISION EXPECTED AFTER CHRISTMAS!

The second public inquiry into Dudley Wood was done and dusted in just four days, two less than expected, but with no less fireworks!
Amongst the twists of the raging plot was the opening day appearance of Workington promoter Tony Mole as a potential new backer for the club, an appearance by majority landowner Noel Bridgewater and a repeat of the head to head planning battle fought between Barratt West Midlands and Dudley Council. Playing a larger part this time around to much greater effect was the representation of the Speedway club, led by CRASH planning expert Chris Haynes. The full web site reports from each day remain on-line.
Following the final day summing up, the presiding inspector announced that he expected to reveal his decision around Christmas time, probably in the first week of 2002. The key issues of the case once again consisted of noise from the adjacent factories and the loss of a major sports facility. It was agreed by all parties that noise was a significant problem, but Barratts argued - albeit with no particular evidence - that they could provide a sufficient sound barrier. The debate raged over whether speedway is a viable option on the site and Tony Mole provided his own costings to suggest that he could both finance and profit from the return of the Heathens. One final difference between this case and the previous inquiry was the application for 'outline planning', where Barratts' are not pursuing plans confined to an exact amount of houses, instead seeking a rather more general agreement of planning permission.
The case received very generous publicity on local TV, radio, newspapers and this time across the Internet and World Wide Web. Fans will now wait once more for a decision, hoping that the highly regarded inspector agrees with the four previous instances of finding against the acceptance of residential planning permission.

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9th January 2002

PLANNING PERMISSION GRANTED FOR HOUSES ON DUDLEY WOOD

The outcome of last November's Public Inquiry regarding the use of the former Dudley Wood stadium has been announced, with the inspector's decision to grant planning permission for houses on the site. The successful appeal by Barratt West Midland will be subject to several conditions regarding noise and layout, but as long as these are met, the company will have consent to finally turn the historically famous speedway stadium into a residential estate.
The news, which contradicts several previous planning refusals and an unsuccessful appeal in 1996, will be a devastating blow to fans of not just Cradley Heath, but of the sport of speedway racing. Despite the enhanced sponsorship, TV coverage, attendances and number of operating tracks in Britain, the inspector ruled that speedway was not financially viable. Also ignoring the pledge by Workington promoter Tony Mole to buy and rebuild a stadium, the presiding Mr. Sims stated in his report that the cost of returning a Cradley Heath team to the Elite League would be between 2 - 3 million.
In conclusion, the appeal decision claims that noise from the nearby factories will not pose sufficient problem to any potential housing and that "the resumption of speedway .. is highly unlikely to occur.
As the news filters to all parties, it now remains to be seen what courses of action can be pursued by the Speedway club, Dudley Council and indeed by Barratts. All further news will of course appear here as it is available.

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13th January 2002

IT'S NOT OVER YET - SUPPORTERS 1ST PLAN OF ACTION

After taking a few days to take in the outcome of the Dudley Wood public inquiry, supporters are now beginning to respond in bigger force than ever. Under the provision of the Town and Country Planning Act, any aggrieved party can make application to the High Court to have the decision quashed. However, this course of action can only be followed on the grounds that the decision is not within the powers of the Act or the relevant requirements have not been followed. To all supporters who wish to voice their opinions and complaints, we suggest the following. You can email the Planning Inspectorate, who deal with appeals against the decision, at complaints@pins.gsi.gov.uk or telephone them on 0117 372 8252. We believe that Dudley Council, who so far have been very supportive but fairly passive, should look very seriously at an appeal to the High Court. To express your views to them, you can write to: Tim Sunter (Council Leader), Dudley Council, Planning Dept, 3 St James Road, Dudley, DY1 1HZ.
The main points are that (i) this appeal decision is inconsistent, to say the least, with the case at Long Eaton (Erewash Borough Council) in terms of proof of viability for speedway; (ii) the goalposts seem to have been moved from the last inquiry where the previous Inspector found completely opposite conclusions on almost every ground and importantly decided that there should always be a chance of speedway returning as long as someone is willing to finance it; and finally (iii) that these decisions directly contravene the government guidance on protection of sports grounds, with reference to ppg17.
For more details on the decision document, refer to the current editorial article. Please also note that long time supporters of the case Ian Pearson MP and Mayor of Dudley, Cllr John Walters, are looking at all possibilities on our behalf. We do not feel that this is the end of the road and I have wider concerns on the precedent that has been set for any sports ground across the country. There are remarkable similarities to the likes of Wimbledon FC, Brentford FC and most recently in the news, York City FC. Any steps to take this worrying trend of selling sports ground to the highest bidder into the public eye can only be of assistance to us all.

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14th January 2002

THE SEARCH BEGINS POSSIBLE NEW SITE TO BE PERSUED

The search for an alternative home base for the Heathens has been stepped up, while Dudley Council begin to consider all possible routes forward for either Dudley Wood or elsewhere.
One possible site already been identified is the site of Oldbury Sports Stadium which is closing down in March. Long-time Cradley supporter, Paul Tromans is leading a bid to take over the site with a view to bringing back speedway and greyhound racing. Although any possible application is in the very early stages, initial discussions are believed to have taken place with Sandwell Council, who control the area within which the site stands.
Tromans is seeking the backing of local businesses and supporters as he becomes the first to make attempts to relocate the Heathens in the wake of the Dudley Wood scandal. It is acknowledged that the first obvious problem with the site ironically may be the close proximity of housing. However, Tromans will be at the stadium & centre in Newbury Lane, Oldbury at 10am this Wednesday morning (16th), for a photo call primarily with the local Halesowen News. Any Cradley supporters who could make themselves available for the picture are encouraged to get to the site at the above time, bringing with them their best array of green and white attire.
Meanwhile, legal representatives at Dudley Council are now looking into the remote possibility of a counter-appeal against the planning application decision at Dudley Wood. It is however expected that any chance of this could prove too costly and unlikely to yield the reverse outcome that we all desire.

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21st January 2002

DUDLEY WOOD REACTIONS & THE ALTERNATIVE SITE SEARCH

The breaking news has continued to develop at some pace over the last two weeks, since the decision was announced to grant planning permission for houses on the former Dudley Wood stadium. Supporters have reacted angrily to the latest suggestion that the proposed new residential estate should have it's streets named after former Cradley Heath riders. The local Express and Star's story, from the idea of a lone supporter, has been perceived as insulting and rubbing salt in the wounds as a constant reminder of what Barratts will do to the spiritual home of the Heathens.
Meanwhile, Dudley Council, with the firm backing of local mayor John Walters, have continued to look into any possible courses of action to reverse the inspector's shocking verdict, without fruition. At the same time, Bob Edwards of CRASH is urging all supporters to write and express their anger and disappointment to a number of sources. On behalf of the supporters group and in association with this website, he is leading the way to take the Dudley Wood case right to the top in the hope of stirring up some final awareness of what we believe is a disgraceful and unjust appeal outcome. All Heathens fans with any memories of the last fifty years should write one last letter about Dudley Wood to Stephen Byers MP, the Secretary of State at the Dept. of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU I believe Mr.Byers can also be emailed at stephen.byers@dtlr.gov.uk. Correspondence should state the opinion that the Government policies set out to protect the sale of sports land are clearly not working.
At the same time, the search now continues in earnest for suitable alternative sites. Suggestions are mounting, but leading the way, not least in the publicity stakes, is the Oldbury Leisure Centre, first mentioned here last week. Reactions are beginning to emerge since the front page headlines in the local Halesowen and Dudley News, while all implications of the site are now being seriously considered. It has been acknowledged that there may be planning problems regarding a nearby residential home, church and existing housing in the close proximity. On the positive side, the site already holds an operational, if somewhat small stadium with enough room for a speedway and greyhound track. The local council are also under some pressure to offload the site at no cost to themselves and would be happy to see it retained for sporting use. The question of whether all the hurdles can be overcome is now being passed between some interested Sandwell Councillors and you can write to Council Leader Bill Thomas to add your view at Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Council House, PO Box 2374, Oldbury, West Midlands, B69 3DE. Alternatively use the following email address, councillor@whthomas.freeserve.co.uk or contact your own local councillor.
A few more email addresses which may be useful to show our continued support are those for Dudley Council's Leader Tim Sunter [council.leader@mbc.dudley.gov.uk], Chief Executive Andrew Sparkes [chief.exec@mbc.dudley.gov.uk] and Mayor John Walters [walters.cllr@mbc.dudley.gov.uk]. And, theres also the complaints address of the Planning Inspectorate [complaints@pins.gsi.gov.uk] who dealt with the fateful Public Inquiry.
Finally, it is understood that Workington Promoter Tony Mole who was involved with fruitless negotiations and substantial financial offers to buy Dudley Wood, would still be interested in considering alternative sites, should they be of the right quality. Two local councils now seem to be on our side, along with the continued enthusiasm and momentum of supporters. And anyone interested in debating the issues further or providing other suggestions will be welcome to attend a forthcoming PubliC Meeting about the club and recent events on Wednesday 30th January. See Club CH Latest News for more details.

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9th February 2002

'FINAL NAIL' FOR DUDLEY WOOD - COUNCIL ANNOUNCE "NO APPEAL"

Dudley Council have announced that there will be no High Court appeal against the decision to allow houses on Dudley Wood, as they cannot identify any reasonable legal grounds on which to challenge it. It now seems to be the very final nail in the coffin on speedway ever returning to the former stadium.
We are assured that there was no financial issue, and both Dudley Council and Cradley Speedway Ltd were prepared to fund any legal action. However, the case could not be fought on a disagreement with the decision, only if it could be argued that the process used by the inspector was incorrect. Following a meeting yesterday morning between Council Chief Executive Andrew Sparkes, Mayor John Walters, legal advisor John Poly, as well as Cradley Speedway club director Tim Rowe and CRASH supporters' representative Bob Edwards, the final sad conclusion was reached.
John Walters commented to the web site, "We are having to accept the legal advice we have received that there are no grounds to appeal against the process of the inquiry. Although there may be some parts of the decision that are wrong, the process that was used was correct and its only the process that can be challenged". Bob Edwards added "It is now time to draw a veil over Dudley Wood and search for alternative premises".
Disappointed council Chief Executive Andrew Sparkes told of a cross-party working committee that has now been extended within the council, to identify a suitable piece of land for a new stadium to be built. Workington promoter Tony Mole wishes to be kept informed of developments after losing out on his bid to rebuild Dudley Wood. Barratts meanwhile must apply for planning permission to introduce sound proofing measures on the Kimber Drop Forge, next to Dudley Wood, before they can begin any building work on the site.

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31st March 2002

SPORTS CAMPAIGNERS FIGHT FOR OLDBURY SPORTS STADIUM

Oldbury Sports Stadium, one of the list of local sites targeted for a potential new speedway track, has received national newspaper coverage this week.
The site, first mentioned here on the web site in January, has been earmarked for closure by Sandwell council and a deadline for applications from anyone interested in taking over the land should have passed last week. However the stadium has won a temporary reprieve as councillors have extended the time limit until July for private developers to make their bids. Although no formal approach has been planned by speedway parties, interest is expected from various quarters including greyhound operators. Heathens supporter, Paul Tromans has led the headline campaign for the speedway club to link up with the stadium and its facilities, but numerous planning concerns may stand in the way.
Now, speedway-friendly sports columnist Donald Trelford, writing in Saturday's Daily Telegraph has drawn attention the plight of local sports protestors who are campaigning for the stadium to be kept open with its present use. It is reported that 44 local football clubs use the ground for training purposes, as well as badminton and squash groups in the leisure centre. Amongst those backing the campaign are legendary Wolverhampton footballer, Steve Bull, and the protestors are turning to the local council elections in May, in a bid to 'save' the stadium.
Three people will register as single-issue candidates to fight for a council seat in Sandwell, hoping primarily to take votes from the right wing British National Party. They have also been in touch with Tessa Jowell, Government Secretary for Sports, and recruited the help of several other locally-based international sports men and women. Now, what chance of that council seat being won if the group was to incorporate the Cradley Heath Speedway campaign. Or what chance of a candidate standing primarily in support of speedway?
While a list of potential sites has been drawn up and both Sandwell and Dudley Councillors have looked at areas of land to assess their suitability for introducing speedway racing, no avenues have proved to be worth seriously pursuing so far. Oldbury Sports Stadium and Leisure Centre, despite its possible drawbacks, has represented one of the most feasible options yet. The search is continuing behind the scenes, but many Heathens fans are now voicing a growing concern about the lack of recent developments. The Dudley Wood door has been closed, but its seems we need to be knocking much harder for another one to be opened.

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13th April 2002

HEATHENS SITE SEARCH TAKES ANOTHER STEP FORWARD

The search for a new site to relocate Cradley Speedway took another step forward this week when a local township association agreed to perform a feasibility study in the Sandwell area.
With all hope gone for a return to Dudley Wood, which lies in the borough of Dudley, the ongoing search has been widened to surrounding areas. While Dudley Council, led by mayor John Walters, continue to look at the possibilities of up to fifteen separate pieces of land, neighbouring Sandwell Council are equally as keen to provide a home for the world famous speedway team.
One site suggested by Heathens fan, Paul Tromans gained significant local media publicity this week as well as attracting many supporters to a meeting of Rowley Regis residents and councillors. The playing fields off Bearmore Road were discussed as a potential location at the meeting and received just one cautionary objection from the twelve-strong committee. Councillors were openly very welcoming of the Heathens and more than happy to support the relocation of the club in the area in which the town of Cradley Heath actually lies.
Whether Bearmore itself could be a potential home for a speedway stadium is debatable, but the positive reactions of Sandwell Councillors both individually and collectively is a massive boost. Dudley Council have offered continued support, although any public news has been extremely limited recently, but Sandwell can only provide additional options for club and supporters. As well as Bearmore, it is known that several other sites in the area are being considered and could offer even further possibilities in the new battle to find a brand new home for the Heathens.

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2nd May 2002

CLUB AND SUPPORTERS MOURN THE LOSS OF TWO GREAT FRIENDS

Cradley Heath Speedway is mourning the tragic loss of two people with two very different connections with the club.
We have learnt of the death of Edgar Baker, a man involved in various capacities with the Heathens over several decades. He will be most remembered to fans however by the name of Tracksider, through his columns in Cradley Heath race night programmes for many years. Ed was nothing less than an oracle on all things Cradley Speedway, and even went so far as to compile a book behind the scenes, detailing the entire statistical history of the club. He died after a long illness, undoubtedly taking a small piece of Heathens history with him.
His death is followed by the equally tragic news that popular Club CH rider, David Nix was killed in a track crash at Kings Lynn last night. A regular favourite of the Club CH crowd of recent years, David was representing Kings Lynn in a Conference League match against Newcastle at the Norfolk Arena. He lost control of his machine in heat six and although treated immediately by paramedics and then taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, he succumbed to his injuries soon after. He had been due to travel to this year's British Grand Prix in Cardiff with the Heathens fans, a trip he also made last year. David rode in seven matches for Club CH to help keep the Cradley Heath flag flying, making appearances in all three seasons of Club CH action.
Our deepest sympathies are with both families.

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5th July 2002

NEW SITE HOPES AXED BY PRIMATIVE FARMERS

A potential new site in the Black Country which could have incorporated a return for the Heathens alongside a vast range of other sports has been ruled out by Dudley Council for bizarre archeological reasons.
Halesowen Harriers chairman Derek Beasley wants to develop a 16-acre area next to the Harriers' home ground in Park Road, Halesowen, but the site was unfortunately used approximately 4000 years ago by primitive farmers and hence cannot now be developed. Early tools from the Neolithic Age such as axes and hammers, made from wood, flint or stone are believed to lie buried deep under the ground but cannot even be removed for fear of damaging them. However, even their possible presence on the site is enough to prevent the ambitious development from going ahead.
The plans would have included squash courts, all weather football pitches, tennis, bowls and golf areas, and the land would have provided enough space to construct a speedway track and all the necessary facilities. The site is now most likely destined to become wasteland while the Heathens' search goes on.
The setback has proved to be just one of a series of stumbling blocks in the way of any potential new site for the club. Several other pieces of land have been actively pursued over recent months, but negotiations have faltered for different reasons in each location.

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NEW DEVELOPER INTERESTED & SITE SEARCH HELP REQUIRED

A potential new developer has emerged with the interest of constructing a new stadium in the local area which would facilitate the return of Cradley Heath Speedway.
The people behind the project have already identified one possible site with ample space to build an arena for speedway and greyhounds, although face a number of hurdles to secure the necessary land and planning rights. Advice has been sought from the speedway authorities with regard to constructing a new track and specific dicussions have taken place with one borough council. However, the search is now being stepped up once again to find any other alternative locations which could be explored for their suitability.
Earlier this year, the help of Heathens fans was requested to identify any areas of land with any stadium potential. The process proved extremely fruitful and a list of fifteen sites were drawn up and inspected, while publicity was deliberately kept to a minimum to avoid any unnecessary adverse reaction. Despite the discovery of one particularly useful location, the search could not bear the ultimate reward purely down to the financial constraints associated with the final shortlisted site, although negotiations for this land will remain open.
Now, the search is being relaunched with the hope of going one step further in realising the ongoing dream of Cradley supporters. Developers wait in the wings for a suitable location, while Dudley Council have also requested a copy of the re-drawn site list. With speedway fans spread around across the local boroughs, it is hoped that the chances of finding the right piece of land will be significantly increased.

Once again, it is suggested that the details of any potential locations are not advertised publicly, or even on this web site. Previous efforts have been tempered by misinformed reactions of local residents and other special interest groups. A proposed list will be drawn up and the sites thoroughly examined for their suitability. Both Dudley and Sandwell Borough Councils had promised their own individual site searches during the Summer, but despite recent inquiring letters from supporters group (CRASH) leader Bob Edwards, no results have been forthcoming.
If you know of any pieces of land which you believe could be considered for the location of a new stadium, even if these have been previously put forward, then please send any details to the following e-mail address: sitesearch@cradleyspeedway.co.uk - the revised list will be compiled and distributed to the interested developers as well as local councils.

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FOUR TARGET 'STADIUM' SITES FALL THROUGH

Four local sites targeted as possible locations for a new speedway stadium have all fallen through after the search for suitable land was stepped up in the last few weeks. The news was publicly announced by Bob Edwards to the Heathens fans gathered at the Club CH End of Season Disco last night, and follows hot on the heels of the site search led by this web site last month.
A number of sites have recently been rejected for various reasons, but hope remained that one of the final four locations surveyed could prove to be the new home that Cradley Heath Speedway had been looking for. Land at Coombes Wood and near Castlegate in Dudley had been pursued but deals could not be concluded for either and broke down almost at the same time.
Response from the council to the on-line site search by web visitors and supporters has been negative, despite around a dozen potential locations being identified. Research into each and every one has been done behind the scenes to avoid unnecessary adverse publicity, but work has continued in earnest without the media attention. John Mainwearing, Director of Urban Development at Dudley Council commented "If there were acceptable sites in the Borough we would have pointed the club in their direction a long time ago". Sandwell chiefs have also failed to find any suitable land in their borough, but Council Leader Bill Thomas promised to meet with his Dudley counterpart to seek new ways forward.
Kidderminster businessman and successful promoter Tony Mole emerged twelve months ago as the main interested party in a Heathens return to racing, and it is understood that he is still actively pursuing this interest in finding a new site.
Meanwhile, Club CH Chairman Ian Shelton announced that British Grand Prix 2003 tickets would again be booked en bloc for interested Cradley fans. Supporters have banded together at Cardiff for the last two years and a similar scheme will be run for the third annual Millennium Stadium trip. Places must be booked in advance before Christmas this year and final payments made for the block of 35 tickets on or before the planned Club CH AGM on 15th January 2003.

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6th February 2003

DUDLEY COUNCIL RESUME POSITIVE APPROACH

Dudley Council have pledged their renewed support to a positive approach in relocating Cradley Heath Speedway this week following a succesful meeting between Heathens supporters and council officials.
The welcome news comes just a few weeks after fans admitted to becoming very disillusioned with the local council's recent attitude to the ongoing campaign. The Council have now acknowledged their continuing support for the return of Speedway to the Borough after a meeting held on Monday. Bob Edwards and Chris Haynes represented C.R.A.S.H. at the meeting, to discuss the way ahead with Bernard Meade, Head of Urban Policy in the Urban Environment, and Duncan Lowndes, the Assistant Director of Culture and Community Services.
All of the sites previously put to the Council were reviewed and, although most fail to satisfy existing Council policies, Mr Meade agreed to make further enquiries on one particular site to establish if it may become available in the near future. He also agreed to ask his colleagues to identify if there were any sites within the ownership of the Council that could be utilised, adding that land does become available in the Borough from time to time and, in the future, he would be prepared to consider the suitability of sites, as and when they become available.
The major stumbling block to relocation remains the noise that Speedway generates and Bob Edwards asked if the Council were prepared to follow the lead of other local authorities in ensuring that the strict regulation BS4142 is no longer adopted as the assessment criteria for noise. As Mr Meade is not responsible for noise issues, he has offered to raise the question with the appropriate people.

Significantly, following Chris Haynes' recent appearance at the Unitary Development Plan Public Inquiry, the council are also now proposing to amend the UDP to recognise the need for major sports facilities (including stadia). This further good news is contrary to the route which had been taken by officials since residential planning permission had been granted at Dudley Wood.
Meanwhile, Bob Edwards has confirmed that Tony Mole is still very interested in taking the project forward, if a suitable site can be found. In addition, development company St Modwen - the Council's partner in the proposed revamp of Dudley Zoo and Castle - have said that they may also be interested in a leisure development if a suitable opportunity arose.
Although no ready made solutions have been identified, it is now clear that the Council are prepared to take a positive approach to identifying suitable sites and considering any further suggestions that are made. In the meantime, any further recommendation from supporters, based on a minimum of 8 acres where car parking can be shared or 10 acres where a stand alone facility would be required, will be welcomed and can be e-mailed to the website for consideration by Mr Meade.

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18th February 2003

BARRATTS HIT BUILDING STUMBLING BLOCKS

Over a year after receiving a provisional go-ahead to build houses on the former Dudley Wood Stadium, builders Barratt West Midlands are continuing to hit stumbling blocks which prevent any work commencing. In January 2002, a Government Inspector granted 'outline planning permission' to the company, which meant they would be allowed to redevelop the site but only subject to certain conditions. Now, twelve months on, they are still seeking council approval for their additional plans, and appear to be having some difficulty in their task.
One of the problems facing the builders is reducing the impact of thundering sound from the neighbouring Kimber Drop Forge. A council official has stated that proposals have recently been submitted and are now being forwarded for consideration by the council's private noise consultant. He added that "Until that report or a scheme of works has been approved by the Council, Barratts will not be able to commence construction. Likewise, until a scheme to safeguard the new houses on the site from noise has been approved by the Council, Barratts will not be able to start development". Furthermore, if planning permission is required for the proposed work, an application will have to be submitted to Sandwell MBC as the forge and former stadium are separated by the local authority border.

It has also been reported that Barratts' housing plans have been amended several times since first being submitted, in attempts to counter further conditions imposed regarding "specific design, pedestrian, vehicular movement and property security issues". Despite all of this, they have still failed to satisfy Dudley Council and only when an acceptable layout has been submitted will the plans then also be forwarded for the inspection of the noise consultant.
Meanwhile, more good news comes for Heathens fans with regard to the quest to relocate the club in the wake of the Dudley Wood sale, with the statement that "The Council has and is investigating a number of site proposals for a speedway stadium". The official went on to add that "a number of those suggestions do involve land swap deals". Several sites are once again being pursued by both Council officials and supporters alike, despite past searches turning up no suitable land. In a constantly developing environment, it is clear that there may always be the possibility of potential sites opening up, where hope had previously been all but lost.

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13th May 2003

PROMOTORS & SUPPORTERS PLAN WAY FORWARD

Three New Sites Identified as Bulldozers Move Onto Dudley Wood

Cradley Speedway officials have held an informal review meeting in order to pave the way ahead for a possible return to racing, with the news to emerge that three new sites are now being explored for their suitability.
The meeting comprised representatives from all the main parties involved in the continued fight to resurrect the famous Heathens. Present were directors Dave Pottinger and Tim Rowe, prospective developer Tony Mole and CRASH supporters co-ordinators, Bob Edwards, Chris Haynes and Margaret Bytheway. The feeling is that the site search must be stepped up again in order to identify a plot of land which can be moulded to meet all the relevant requirements for a speedway stadium.
Three specific sites are now being followed up by Tony Mole, Bob Edwards and Chris Haynes respectively. As always, the exact identity of each will not be revealed unless it is decided that a full planning application can be submitted, in order to prevent any unnecessary adverse publicity.
In total, 36 separate sites have now been looked at in the last twelve months alone, the majority of which have been forwarded to Dudley or Sandwell Council for discussion and have been rejected for one reason or another. Director of Urban Development, Bernard Meade has spent particular time analysing pros and cons of each and every one in the Dudley Borough, and is now in the process of trying to arrange a meeting involving Sport England and Advantage West Midlands to try to move matters forward.
As Barratts begin to move their heavy machinery into Dudley Wood, attention must now turn more firmly than ever towards a new site for a new stadium. And despite another long period of seemingly little public news, there is still hope that progress can be made soon and still a great deal of work being done behind the scenes by numerous relevant parties.

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18th May 2003

BARRATTS TRY AGAIN WITH LATEST APPLICATION

Council Planning Meeting on Wednesday 28th May (6:00pm)

Around 18 months after being given outline planning permission to build houses on the former Dudley Wood Stadium, Barratts will now try again to obtain the final go-ahead required for them to start work on their acquired site.

Dudley Council's Development Control Committee will meet at 6:00pm on Wednesday 28th May in Committee Room 2 of the Council House in Priory Road Dudley to decide whether the builders' amended plans are suitable to meet the list of conditions imposed upon them. Although the public inquiry inspector granted permission to the company at their appeal in 2001, he stated the list of requirements which must be met before plans can be officially accepted to develop the hallowed ground.

The company's progress has since been followed closely by speedway supporters action group CRASH, and indeed objections to the plans have been submitted by the group with regard to a number of planning issues. Furthermore, supporters' spokesman Bob Edwards hopes to be able to address the committee on the night to raise the concerns. Whilst admitting that this will not save the old place because of the ridiculous planning decision by inquiry inspector Mr Sims, it is intended to use the opportunity to remind the Council that supporters are working very hard on obtaining an alternative site and, at some stage, will expect their support in approving such a site when a suitable location is identified.

A healthy display of red, green and white from Heathens supporters would be more than welcome on the night to demonstrate a show of continued support, and with the meeting scheduled for 6:00pm, people will be able to gain access from around 5:30pm.

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28th May 2003

DUDLEY WOOD'S FINAL SETBACK

At Dudley Council House tonight (28th May 2003) the final nail was driven into the coffin for Heathens fans hoping to get back to Dudley Wood.
Bob Edwards, spokesman for CRASH spoke for the maximum time allowed (3 minutes) about Dudley Council's failure to protect it's major sports grounds with Dudley Town Football club now under a car park, the cricket ground under a cinema and now our beloved Cradley Heath Speedway to go under a Barratts housing estate.
He asked where the next Bruce Penhall or Duncan Edwards would come from now these sports have been lost to the Borough. Several Councillors spoke in our favour but it was all in vain as the vote was cast to allow Barratts to build their homes.
A number of Cradley fans attended to show their support and following Bob's speech there was loud applause from the public gallery which was immediately condemned by the chairperson.
The fight will still go on following this setback, which most will consider to have been inevitable following the result of the second public enquiry which allowed Barratts to gain Outline Planning Permission in November 2001.

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11th June 2003

SPORT ENGLAND MEET SPEEDWAY & COUNCIL OFFICIALS

A vital meeting has been arranged for next month when the influential Sport England organisation will sit down with Dudley Council and representatives from Cradley Speedway.
On the agenda for the 9th July meeting will be the proposal of a new site for the Heathens within the local area. Three sites, recently identified as possible targets for a new stadium will be discussed between all parties, with Speedway representatives Bob Edwards and Tony Mole looking to take the plans for at least one of the locations a stage further. Much will depend on the necessary co-operation from Council officials and it is hoped that the presence of Sport England will also provide an additional boost.
In a separate development from this meeting, local supporters have also been invited to reiterate their views on the return of speedway racing to the area. Dudley Council's Select Committee on Culture & Recreation has a new chairman who is seeking the views of local people regarding leisure and cultural services. The committee cannot make decisions on behalf of the council, but do have "extensive powers to conduct research, make recommendations to the Executive and Council, and question Lead Members and Chief Officers about decisions and performance". Comments can be sent regarding the relocation of Cradley Speedway directly to the committee via the Council's Web Site and this provides a significant new and easy route for fans to put across their continued support.

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12th July 2003

POSITIVE SPEEDWAY & SPORT ENGLAND MEETING

Dudley Council met this week with officials of the Sport England organisation, along with Cradley Speedway representatives, Bob Edwards and Tony Mole. The outcome was positive, if not spectacular, and several potential stadium sites were discussed between all parties. The council reiterated their support and remain open to suggestions.
More news will follow shortly on the proposed way forward in finding the elusive location for a new speedway home. Meanwhile, for the fans still searching for a site themselves, you may wish to do some self-checking, as well as getting a glimpse into the difficulties involved in the process by visiting the Dudley UDP Proposals Map. Identify the location of any suggested site on the map and then check the Map Key for land use. Unfortunately, we must already rule out the coded areas of pink, blue and dark green.

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20th July 2003

NEW MULTI-SPORTS STADIUM TO BE CONSIDERED IN DUDLEY

A new multi-sports stadium facilitating a return for Cradley Heath Speedway could be considered for the centre of Dudley by council officials.  The stadium proposal is for the Castle Gate site next to Dudley Zoo, ironically the very first site to be examined in 1995 when the club were forced out of Dudley Wood.  It was ruled out at the time because other developments held priority and the council are still currently due to consider existing plans by development company, St Modwen Ltd.  However, these plans are far from certain to be accepted, and should the council decide on a refusal, the idea of a stadium could be next in line.  Ideal in terms of local hotels and other leisure facilities, with good transport and car parking links, the site could house a multi-sports stadium featuring the likes of greyhound racing, go-kart racing and other activities.

The site has returned to the top of the proposals list following the recent meeting between Dudley Council, Sport England and Cradley Speedway representatives.  Two other sites are still being actively pursued out of a list of eight discussed at the meeting.  Although any further details will not be released into the public domain for fear of jeopardising either deal, it can be revealed that planning permission would be very likely on one site but negotiations with the landowner have failed to produce any positive results.  In contrast a deal could well be struck to purchase the other site, but planning permission would be a much bigger obstacle.  Tony Mole continues to actively support the return of the club and remains keen to facilitate a new stadium either through his own resources or by involving larger operators.

Both Tony and Bob Edwards are still open to suggestions for potential sites and Dudley Council are happy to evaluate anything that may provide a solution.  Furthermore, the recent meeting between all parties ended with the agreement of seven action points, which will now be taken forward over the next few weeks.

UPDATE ... Hopes for speedway to be introduced to the Castle Gate site in a multi-purpose stadium were dashed when Dudley Council accepted alternative plans by the St Modwen development company.  Supporters will soon be too late to recognise any remaining features of the former Dudley Wood stadium as Barratt West Midlands have begun extensive earth-moving work, as well as erecting a temporary sales office for the houses due to be built on the land.

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3rd Nov 2003

SITE SEARCH - LATEST NEWS UPDATE

Despite the lack of news on the web site and in the local media recently, Cradley Heath supporters are being reassured that moves are still ongoing in the quest to find a suitable new site for the return of speedway racing to the area.
Spokesman Bob Edwards has confirmed that efforts to seek an alternative venue for the Heathens are continuing. Discussions are currently ongoing with one land-owner and other work is well underway to support an application for a detailed site search of the area. He stressed that the loss of Dudley Wood was a major blow and that this has made the job of getting a team back on track extremely difficult but there is no thought of giving up until we have exhausted all the possibilities and we have certainly not done that yet.
Even though many sites have been examined in the past for their potential suitability, there are  occasions when a previously rejected piece of land can become a possibility again through changes in circumstances. Workington promoter and Kidderminster businessman Tony Mole has also stayed actively involved in the site search and remains engaged in negotiations alongside Bob Edwards.

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