The Fight for a Return
The news breaks on the web site that the public inquiry result, regarding the use of the former Dudley Wood stadium has been decided. The inspector's decision is to grant planning permission for houses on the site. The successful appeal by Barratt West Midland is subject to several conditions regarding noise and layout.
News hits the local Black Country media with newspapers, radio stations and local TV covering the story. Reactions begin to flood in from devastated supporters. Dudley Mayor, Cllr John Walters vows to continue the search for a suitable site and says 'I will be following this decision up to find out if we can appeal to the secretary of state'. Managing Director of Barratt West Midlands, John Payne, says the decision will transform a derelict site and pave the way for much-needed housing.
Dudley Council officials begin looking into the appeal process against the decision. The process could lead to High Court action and result in the inquiry re-sitting. The Express & Star include a whole page feature on the history of the Heathens, followed by a comment from part-landowner Noel Bridgewater who claims that his father who helped build the stadium was only ever interested in greyhound racing.
The first rallying call comes from fans to fight the decision and simultaneously step up the search for an alternative site in the local area. The club's plight receives National TV time on cable channel's The Score, as it is compared to similar battles of York City FC and other Football clubs.
Another breaking story on the web site that a possible new site has been identified by a speedway and greyhound enthusiast. The existing stadium just a couple of miles away in Oldbury, comes under the jurisdiction of Sandwell Council and initial discussions about the future of the site have already taken place.
Local MP, Ian Pearson takes the case to the Secretary of State, Stephen Byers, asking his department to seriously consider the judgement of the case.
The Halesowen and Dudley News hand over the entire front page to the bid lead by Paul Tromans to take over Oldbury Sports Centre. Two further articles appear inside the local weekly.
The Express and Star carry the story of a suggestion by a lone speedway supporter that the roads of the proposed new housing estate should be named after former Heathens riders. Dudley Council say they will consider the suggestion, including the likes of Alan Hunt Way, Bastable Close Penhall Street and Gundersen Road.
A Public Meeting is called for ten days time (30th Jan), to follow Club CH's AGM, where supporters are invited to debate the future direction of the battle and get a full update on all the routes being pursued behind the scenes. The Sunday Mercury newspaper announces that 'defiant' Cradley fans have vowed to continue the fight to keep the club alive.
Follow-up headlines in the Express & Star carry the views of the majority of Cradley fans regarding the suggestion of street names on the proposed development. The idea is described as an 'insult'. and 'rubbing salt into the wounds'.
Lib Dem Councillor David Sheppard calls for an all-party working group to be set up by Dudley Council to find an alternative home for the speedway club in the Dudley Borough. Lead council member for economic vitality, Cllr David Sparks says the loss of Dudley Wood to housing was 'a considerable loss to the history and culture of the Black Country'. Council Leader, Cllr Tim Sunter announces that Dudley is getting £3.2 million from the Lottery New Opportunities Fund to support capital sports schemes and that work is taking place on how the money should be utilised.
A meeting is held between Bob Edwards of CRASH (Cradley Raising Aid Saving Heathens), speedway club directors, Tony Mole and Dudley Council officials to discuss both Dudley Wood and possible alternative sites. Supporters are urged to write to Stephen Byers MP and Dudley Council expressing their continued support. Another councillor, Dave Tyler backs the campaign and says that Dudley Council need to be more imaginative in their search for a new site. Land off Level Street near the huge Merry Hill shopping complex is suggested as a possibility.
Tony Mole, the current Workington promoter, blasts the inspector's decision in an interview with Heathens Clubcall. Speaking after giving evidence at the inquiry of his wish to restore the stadium to a state fit for speedway racing, he expresses his disappointment that the inspector chose to disregard his proposal.
"Listen to the Tony Mole interview on Heathens ClubCall 09066 555 920 - calls cost 60p/minute)."
It is decided that the Public Meeting called for the 30th Jan must be moved to accommodate the anticipated large numbers of people hoping to attend. The new venue is the Regis Hall in Old Hill.
Over 120 people attend a public meeting in the area to discuss the future action of supporters, the speedway club and Dudley Council. The meeting receives yet more headlines in the local media both before and after the event. Co-director of the club, Tim Rowe, pledges the board's support for any course of action.
Speedway Star prints an ill-timed four-page article by Andrew Edwards on the "final" demise of Cradley Speedway. Ignoring the further possible action to be taken over Dudley Wood and the range of alternative sites being identified, the sad feature fails to capture the mood or continuing presence of the Heathens' fight.
Dudley Wood seems to be finally consigned to the history books. Following a meeting involving all parties, Dudley Council announce that they cannot identify any grounds on which to appeal against the inspector's decision. A cross-party working committee is extended to locate a suitable alternative site in or around the borough.