Millwall chief executive pens column on club’s plans for new training ground complex in Kent

Millwall chief executive Steve Kavanagh has confirmed details of their plans to build a new training ground in Kent.

The Lions have bought what they describe as “a significant area” of land in Fawkham Road, West Kingsdown – yards from the historic Brands Hatch motor racing track. It is expected to be at least a year before they seek planning permission to build pitches, a gym, medical and physio room and offices.

News broke of the development when the Championship club recently wrote to neighbours announcing there was a consultation meeting, which took place yesterday.

Kavanagh, in a column on Millwall’s official website, said: “I’m delighted to be able to write to all of you firstly to formally confirm that we have purchased a significant area of land in West Kingsdown, Kent, with a view to building a new high-end training complex for the club.

“The process is still in its infancy but on Monday night I was fortunate to meet with local residents as a very early engagement exercise to outline our plans, what we hope to achieve and also what we feel we could bring to their community, while also better understanding any queries or concerns they had about the proposals.

“We have appointed architects and will submit a full planning application as soon as possible. That process, which is likely to take at least a year, will include regular consultation with residents so as to ensure we can incorporate their ideas and find ways of overcoming any problems, alongside other key stakeholders including Sevenoaks Council, the Highways Agency and more.

“Should our hope of building this new training complex become a reality then it will be a huge step forward for the football club on and off the pitch.

“Greater synergy between our first team and academy set-ups is an imperative objective, as is enhancing the links between the football and business sides of the club. More generally the aim is to build and maintain training facilities which are amongst the best in the country. This will enable us to improve our own players to maximise their individual and collective potential and to become a more attractive proposition to new recruits across all departments.

“It is very important to stress, however, that this is not just about us and doing what we can to grow as a club. We want to make a real impact within the area of West Kingsdown and as such, will look to widen the outstanding work of the Millwall Community Trust so that residents of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from their varying programmes, projects, and funding. What we need to do is better understand the challenges of the area and the problems faced by those who live nearby so that the Community Trust’s efforts can be tailored to best suit those objectives.

“The obvious question is ‘how long will this all take?’. The truth is it is impossible to say at this stage, but we are conscious that the lease on the site at Calmont Road doesn’t have too many years left to run. I liken this to buying a house; once it all goes through you want to move in as soon as you can. This is no different and it’s never straightforward.

“What we cannot afford to do is be complacent about any of this and it is crucial to take one step at a time. Next up is the task of submitting a full planning application and then following the formal process necessary within that.

“We will be as open and transparent as we can be throughout the months and years ahead while also maintaining the confidentiality required at varying stages.

“It remains important to focus on the here and now also, and this week we’ll be taking delivery of a new unit to house the gym and physiotherapy and sports science offices at Calmont Road. The installation of this large unit is part of a wider rearrangement of facilities there, designed to improve the working areas of the management and the players.

“Elsewhere on the property and development topic, we remain in discussions with Lewisham council over securing a 250-year lease on the pockets of land around The Den, so that we can both futureproof the club at its current home and have licence to develop the areas in question as part of the wider development of New Bermondsey. Obtaining that long lease is absolutely imperative for the club and not until it is secured formally, can we move to next stages including submitting any planning application.

“The chairman and board of directors are entirely unwavering in their commitment to the development and our investment in the local community of Lewisham, and we hope to be able to make positive steps forward in the weeks and months ahead.”

Millwall chairman Peter de Savary sold the Calmont Road site to St John’s College, Oxford in 2006 and leased it back.

But by 2014, the board realised it was the wrong decision and looked at buying it back.

Sometimes in the past, players visited the training ground and decided not to join the club because of the poor facilities.

Director Trevor Keyse spent £250,000 of his own money on improving the buildings, medical room, offices and gym there and chairman John Berylson took the investment past the £1million mark up to 2015.

Keyse said at the time: “We have spent a lot of money in the time I have been on the board. Some fans see that figure, for example on social media, and say ‘What a waste of money – why not spend it on a striker?’

“But over the years, we have lost players because of the poor facilities at the training ground. It is where they go to work, so they expect it to be an acceptable and comfortable workplace.”

Brands Hatch, which regularly hosts superbike races at weekends, was last used for a Formula 1 grand prix in 1986.

 

 


 

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