17th February 2017 update:
Statement from The Jockey Club about our proposals for Kempton Park
Nothing has changed since The Jockey Club announced on 10th January 2017
the submission of our full site at Kempton Park for consideration in Spelthorne Borough Council's Local Plan. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate. We now await the outcome of Spelthorne's Local Plan Review process.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are you about to close Kempton Park Racecourse?
No. It remains business as usual at Kempton Park – both as a racing and events venue. In 2017, the racecourse is scheduled to stage 71 racing fixtures, including quality Jumps racing and all-year-round Flat racing on our all-weather surface, and events such as the weekly general markets and twice-monthly antiques market continue as normal.
What has been announced is that our estate at Kempton Park has been put forward for consideration in Spelthorne Borough Council's Local Plan as a site that could be redeveloped in the future to help towards unmet local housing needs. Dependent on the outcome of this application and a subsequent planning process the site may be redeveloped in the future. However if this process is successful, we anticipate it would be at least 2021 – at the earliest – before there are any changes to racing operations. We look forward to welcoming all customers to Kempton Park as normal.
What will happen at Kempton Park after 2021?
That depends on the outcome of a planning process. At the moment we have simply submitted Kempton Park for consideration in Spelthorne Borough Council's Local Plan as a site that could be redeveloped to help towards unmet local housing needs and to generate capital to invest in British Racing. That is the first step of a process that would take several years before there are any changes to operations at Kempton Park, where it remains business as usual in the meantime.
Are you considering anything similar at your other racecourses?
No and they will all benefit from increased investment. The circumstances at Kempton Park are entirely unique and there are no similar plans elsewhere in our group. After careful consideration we believe submitting Kempton Park for potential development in the future is the right move to unlock significant capital to invest in British Racing and because we can protect the Jumps programme, create what we want to become Europe’s leading all-weather course and still have monies left over for projects to enhance our sport. This is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
What will happen to the team at Kempton Park?
Firstly, we are working on the basis that even if planning permission is received, we expect racing to continue until at least 2021. Then we will be offering our people opportunities elsewhere in our group. For starters, there are the major investments I have outlined in nearby Sandown Park less than six miles away and already the ‘hub’ course in our London Region, opportunities created by the development of another floodlit all-weather racecourse and as we know new opportunities are available around our group on an ongoing basis.
If planning permission at Kempton Park is not received, will you still be investing more than £500 million in British Racing in the next decade?
No. However, as we have always done, we can guarantee that every penny we make will continue to go back into British Racing through prize money, facilities to benefit horsemen and racegoers, and initiatives to help to grow our sport, so of course our contribution would still be significant.
What will happen to the King George VI Chase if development goes ahead?
We are looking to deliver major investment to facilities and the track at Sandown Park, which is less than six miles from Kempton Park and which currently stages some of the finest Jumps races in the country, including the Grade 1 Tingle Creek in December and the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at the Jumps season finale in April. We propose to work with the British Horseracing Authority to transfer a select number of fixtures, including the 32Red King George VI Chase, to a transformed Sandown Park, while we would wish to stage the majority of Kempton’s Jumps fixtures at our Jumps courses around the country. The King George VI Chase has been staged at Sandown in the past and won by One Man and Kicking King who both also won the King George at Kempton, so there is a precedent.
What will happen to Kempton Park's other fixtures if development goes ahead?
In consultation with the British Horseracing Authority and the wider sport, and with a careful review of Turf capacity, we would look to transfer Kempton Park’s other Jumps fixtures to other Jumps courses small and large operated nationally by The Jockey Club, with further major investment in the process. This would help to boost Jump racing around the country.
In addition, The Jockey Club is preparing for a planning application to create a new floodlit all-weather course, purpose-built for horsemen. Newmarket is the front-running option for this because of the ultimate convenience it would offer for the many thousands of horses trained at the world’s premier racehorse training centre and the further boost it would give to the Home of Racing. This would be a new course replacing Kempton Park’s all-weather operations and The Jockey Club would require it to be operational before racing stopped at Kempton Park. The Jockey Club has no intention of converting any of its existing Turf surfaces to all-weather.
Are you raising half a billion pounds from redevelopment at Kempton Park?
No – in excess of that sum is what The Jockey Club wishes to invest in British Racing over the next decade. The majority of this will come from our commercial operations and in excess of £100 million from redevelopment at Kempton Park if this goes ahead in the future. The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to act for the long-term good of British Racing and this includes reinvesting every penny of profit made back into the sport.
Is Kempton Park failing commercially?
Quite the opposite – Kempton Park is a highly profitable racecourse.
Do you have a debt problem?
No. We have a sustainable and entirely manageable long-term debt position that is comparable to or better than many companies of our size and structure to enable a strong investment programme. We carried out a very successful refinancing at the end of 2015, which we decided to do to take advantage of the low-interest rate environment. We have had seven consecutive years of financial growth, even through the difficult recession, which has allowed us to contribute record amounts into prize money and raise the funds to make major investments in facilities. Our ambition to pump more than half a billion pounds into British Racing in the next decade is over-and-above any debt repayments in that period.
Is this a way of raising money for investments The Jockey Club has already made?
No – this is about what we can do for British Racing in the future through a nationwide programme of investments to benefit horsemen, racegoers and communities around the country.
When was this decision made?
In 2014 we put forward the backlands at Kempton Park for potential development. However, in November 2016 Spelthorne Borough Council announced a new Call for Sites and once-in-a-generation Green Belt Review, which has created a far greater opportunity. The decision to submit Kempton Park for development consideration was made unanimously by The Jockey Club’s Board of Stewards to meet the local council’s 10th January 2017 deadline, after much consideration of our options.
How many houses could be built at Kempton Park?
Our partner, Redrow, has advised that the full site is capable of hosting 3,000 units. This and other aspects will be consulted on and included in any future planning application for consideration.
Have you consulted your Members about potentially closing Kempton Park?
Yes. The Jockey Club’s Board of Stewards has taken this decision unanimously and consulted with several Members of The Jockey Club in the process to ensure no stone is left unturned on this being in the best long-term interests of British Racing.
We recognise that this will not be a popular decision with everyone, but we hope that people will judge us by our proven track record of investing to improve our sport and recognise this as a move made solely for the long-term benefit of horsemen and racegoers alike.
Why have you decided to invest in Newmarket and Sandown Park in particular?
We are not – this is nationwide programme of investments. We have given more detail on plans at Newmarket and Sandown because they relate to the decision surrounding Kempton Park, but so does the fact that we would look to move Jumps fixtures to each of our Regions, including the North, the Midlands and the South West accompanied by record prize money funding and enhanced customer facilities.
We intend to embark upon an investment programme in excess of £500m over the next decade into prize money and facilities at all of our racecourses and training grounds to benefit horsemen and racegoers. Capital receipts from Kempton Park will form an important part of The Jockey Club’s ability to realise our ambitions for British Racing. This announcement provides some detail on our plans in Newmarket and Sandown because we want to be clear what will replace Kempton Park’s operations.
Newmarket is the Home of Racing and a state-of-the-art new floodlit all-weather course there, designed for horsemen, would be on the doorstep of thousands of horses trained at the world’s premier training centre. Sandown Park is less than six miles from Kempton Park and is accessible to millions of people living in London and the surrounding areas. It has huge potential that has not yet been fulfilled, and this investment in Sandown’s facilities and track can significantly contribute to it unlocking it.
Roger Weatherby on our Kempton Park proposals