Saturday night’s not alright for racing
Saturday night’s not alright for racing
There was all round incredulity from Kent Kings’ management and their supporters at the rejection of their application to be allowed to add Saturday as a permitted race night by the local authority Planning Committee in their meeting last Thursday.

Swale District Council’s members somehow got side-tracked in their deliberation on the Speedway club’s application to add Saturday to the Monday to Friday previously agreed.

So instead of focusing on this basically very straightforward matter of adding Saturday as a possible alternative race night, the debate went down the unwanted direction of rehashing old issues about noise and the acoustic barrier.

This was especially puzzling to the large group of Kent Kings’ fans attending the Council Planning meeting in that a previous main plank of the group of local residents’ argument has always been that Monday is a ‘school-night’.

Despite Saturday obviously being at the weekend and so the ‘school-night’ issue not applying, there were still those wanting to object to the proposed variation.

It took everyone aback that the Committee and its servicing officers choose to allow a debate then, which was resolved when full planning consent was confirmed back in 2015.  And despite no evidence being offered about the noise levels, it dominated the discussion and the application was refused.

An especially contentious moment came when a local Ward Councillor spoke of “horrendous noise… that residents should not be subjected to… on a daily basis” – this despite the fact that the application was changing nothing in respect of the number of nights a week the Speedway would be staged, which is strictly only one day a week.

On leaving the meeting after seeing the application for Saturday racing rejected, club chairman and stadium owner Roger Cearns commented, “What should have been a simple change to the permissions for operation had become a war on what objectors choose to call noise, which is extremely disappointing.  I thank all the supporters who have turned out – you can see what a family sport we are by the range of ages represented here and I assure them that the fight is not over.”

Speaking from his winter Alpine base, co-promoter Len Silver commented, “There’s no question that it’s a big, big blow to the club that the Planning application to run on Saturdays was refused.  I have to say that I was astonished at the decision and still cannot understand it.  It seems that the application to extend the curfew when we run on Saturdays has been the main point of contention, even though we only asked for a 40-minute extension which did not seem unreasonable as it is already in place for Friday night.”

Silver went on, “We have about four months before we open for the 2019 season, so there is still time and we are looking into how best to proceed with a further application. Meanwhile, both team boss Chris Hunt  and I are aware that if we do not get Saturdays and revert to a Monday night operation, we could have team problems.  However, the early signs are that, although it will represent a problem, it is not insurmountable.”

And in that regard, there was a massive boost for the Kings’ management when much vaunted new signing Dan Gilkes confirmed he will be riding for Kent in their 2019 National League campaign regardless of the eventual outcome of this latest Planning impasse.

The teenager Gilkes commented, “Following the decision by the Council which means that it’s possible Kent might have to revert to a Monday racenight at the start, at least, of the forthcoming season, we have been working tirelessly with the Kings’ management team (as they knew Monday night racing is far from ideal for us as a family) – but my desire to ride for Kent Kings was never in doubt, especially after the overwhelming response I have had from the fans.  I can happily confirm that I will still be a Kent King in 2019.  I would like to say a massive thank you to Len and Chris for their ongoing support”