Plans put forward to transform empty Harold Wood unit into indoor cricket centre

Plans have been put forward for an indoor cricket centre in Harold Wood, which would replace an arts and crafts shop.

The new, “state-of-the-art” sports venue, on the site of the dormant Crafty Arts store in Bryant Avenue, would cater for cricket enthusiasts “of all ages and skill levels,” applicant Rockchase Sports said.

According to documents submitted to Havering Council on March 22, the facility would feature a practice space with seven cricket nets – two fitted with a bowling machine – and offer coaching programs for various age groups.

Rockchase, which is currently online-only, said it hopes the centre will become the “premier destination” for players and fans in the area.

The space could also be rented out to schools, local sports clubs, corporate groups, and birthday parties, according to documents submitted to Havering Council.

They also feature plans for a shop specialising in sporting goods, where people could purchase cricket gear and other pieces of equipment.

Rockchase is optimistic about the positive impact the new centre would have on Bryant Avenue and the surrounding area.

In a design statement submitted to Havering Council, the applicant said it would introduce a “much-needed specialist sports facility” to the area, while bringing an existing commercial property back into use.

Additionally, it would keep local enthusiasts in the area.

Rockchase says that the four courts within a ten-mile radius – none of which are in Havering – all have fewer nets that it proposes.

They include the four nets at Ilford Cricket School, the four at Leyton Hub, the three at HPC Chigwell, and the six at Peter May Sports Centre in Waltham Forest, where the applicant says booking availability is comparatively “restricted”

The plans have been put forward against a backdrop of a rising interest in the sport, which has its origins in the late 16th century.

The applicant said: “The demand for indoor cricket nets is experiencing a significant growth and shows no signs of slowing down.

“In East London and Essex alone, there are more than 300 clubs, making it challenging to find good quality indoor nets.”

They added: “Cricket is currently enjoying a surge in popularity, fuelling interest and demand.”

In 2023, data from the England and Wales Cricket Board showed that 1.5million more people had played or watched cricket in 2022 than in 2020.

And as per Havering’s Local Plan, councillors are keen to see more leisure and sports centres open their doors in the borough.

A decision has not yet been made on the proposals, though one is expected by May 21.

The Crafty Arts store closed in December last year, after the company announced it would be moving to an online-only model and relocating its warehouse.

No reason was given in the November announcement, though staff said they would endeavour to keep offering “fantastic” supplies to customers.

Bryant Avenue connects the A127 and A12 and is already home to several retail units, including a Honda dealership and gymnastics club.

Advertisement

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter