Hatchfield Farm development still a threat to Newmarket

With the end of the year approaching, you might be interested to read a brief overview of the state of play in Newmarket.

As you will be aware, the prospect of Newmarket being significantly enlarged by the creation of a suburb on the north-eastern side of the town on Lord Derby’s Hatchfield Farm has caused considerable disquiet among the town in general and among its racing and bloodstock community in particular.  Newmarket occupies such a special place in the racing heritage of the world, never mind merely of Britain, that any move which threatens its viability as a premier training centre – as the development of Hatchfield Farm and the consequent further increase in traffic in the town surely would – is able to provoke universal opposition.

Unsurprisingly, opposition to Hatchfield Farm has not been restricted to the racing world: in July, Forest Heath District Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to throw out Lord Derby’s application.  Unfortunately, this seemingly decisive verdict has not brought the matter to an end because Lord Derby appears intent on challenging the verdict.

With Newmarket’s training and breeding communities united alongside the Jockey Club, Tattersalls and the town’s local politicians, it is hoped that Lord Derby will either bow voluntarily to overwhelming local opinion, or find that his schemes continue to be rebuffed by the relevant planning authorities.  The former would obviously be the preferable option for all concerned, and it is a source of disappointment that the issue remains on-going.

Ironically, at this time of year Lord Derby makes the headlines not only for his plans which would, if successful, undermine Newmarket’s viability as a successful training centre, but also for his role as patron of the Horserace Writers’ and Photographers’ Association, whose prestigious awards are named in his honour.  This awards lunch was previously one of the social highlights of the year for many of racing’s professionals – so if we can make one wish for 2011, it is the removal of the spectre of the green fields of Hatchfield Farm becoming a significant urban extension to our historic town.  

Historically, Lord Derby’s family has been renowned as patrons, rather than opponents, of Newmarket; it is in nobody’s interests for this honourable tradition to be broken.