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MCC snubs David Morley's Lord's overhaul in favour of Populous proposal

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Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is set to proceed with plans by Populous to overhaul part of Lord’s cricket ground, rejecting rival plans by David Morley Architects 

The recommendation was made following feedback from the west London club’s 18,000 members over the rival sets of plans, which involved five consultation meetings and a survey, as well as advice from the club’s principals.

The decision will now pass to MCC members, who include Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger and lyricist Tim Rice, for approval in a special meeting at the end of September. If the recommendation is approved, it would effectively rule out a residential scheme at the Nursery End of Lord’s, which is a key part of Morley’s proposals, known as the Morley Plan, but proved a sticking point for many members. 

The decision follows a two-year process described by the MCC as ‘largest piece of analysis ever produced in the club’s 230-year history’.

Populous’s proposal has been dubbed the Updated Masterplan because it updates the practice’s £80 million 2013 masterplan. It includes redeveloping the Tavern and Allen Stands, and the Thomas Lord Suite. It also proposes rebuilding the Compton and Edrich stands in order to increase the capacity at the ground by more than 2,000. 

Populous proposes moving the Nursery Ground towards Wellington Road, one fifth of which will be on MCC leasehold land that expires in 2136. The proposals would be financed using MCC funds supplemented through short-term borrowing. 

MCC chairman Gerald Corbett said the committee’s decision provided ‘clarity on the extremely important and often controversial subject of ground development’.

He added: ‘Put simply, the club can afford to develop the ground using its own resources and it will do so in the coming years without the need for enabling residential development. 

‘The Morley scheme, with flats at its heart, was considered by the committee to detract from the ambience and special feel of Lord’s, as well as containing a number of operational, security, execution and planning risks. Moreover, the club’s advisers were unable to recommend the proposed commercial terms.’

Corbett said, that while the Morley plan offered a ‘potential cash windfall’, the committee considered the flats ‘too big a price to pay and risk to take’.

He said: ‘The consultation events and survey responses are unequivocal – members do not want flats at Lord’s and they want MCC to continue ground development through its own finances.’ 

According to the MCC, the 4,710 responses to the survey favoured the Populous scheme by more than ten to one. 

Populous’s plans do not include a residential element, but the review circulated to MCC members during the consultation period states that this could be built near Wellington Road if desired, once the Compton and Edrich stands have completed. The committee has recommended that the next development project at Lord’s should be the replacement of these two stands, with work set to begin late 2019 and complete in June 2021.

According to the review, Populous’s Updated Masterplan could be completed by 2032, but would require short-term borrowing to do so, while the Morley Plan could be completed by 2034. 

Populous’s plans are effectively an updated version of its £80 million scheme at the ground, which received planning permission in 2015, and were rubberstamped by London’s then mayor Boris Johnson later that year. 

MCC members will be required to approve each part of the Updated Masterplan – such as the replacement of the Compton and Edrich stands – as it evolves and after planning permission has been granted by Westminster City Council.

David Morley Architects’ alternative concept is backed by property developer Rifkind Associates, which owns the leasehold of land at the Nursery End. Its proposal includes a 37,63m² pavilion at the Nursery End of the ground; a new frontage and entrance along Wellington Road; and two blocks of 10 storeys with 97 flats. The flats will be used to generate funds to implement some of the practice’s plans. 

David Morley of David Morley Architects, which has designed a number of buildings near Lord’s including the ground’s shop, Nursery Pavilion, and Indoor Cricket School, said [see full response below] there was ‘no discussion’ by the MCC about how his practice’s proposals would open up the Wellington Road frontage, and ‘no mention’ of the benefits of the proposed expanding of vacant underground railways below Lord’s in order to relieve the congestion above ground.

The firm proposes maintaining the Nursery Ground in its existing location, albeit reconfiguring it into a 9,220m² square area, as well as replacing the Compton and Edrich stands. 

Documents sent to members reveal that Rifkind Associates offered the club a sum of £135 million to carry out the Morley Plan, with a further £15 million ‘disturbance payment’ being offered to cover the subscriptions of full members for a period of two years while some of the external works were carried out. 

Populous completed a separate scheme at the Lord’s earlier this year: its £21 million redevelopment of the 2,656-seat Warner Stand.

The firm was hired in 2012 to work on plans for Lord’s cricket ground, after the MCC discarded a £400 million masterplan for the ground by AHMM the year before. The club said it had resolved to ‘focus on developing Lord’s on a stand-by-stand basis, and on the club’s freehold land only’.

The Stirling Prize-winning practice had itself been selected as a replacement for a previous £400 million masterplan by Herzog & de Meuron, which was shelved in 2011.

That masterplan featured four residential blocks, a colonnade and new indoor academy, and would have allowed the club to expand its capacity, from the 28,000 at that time, to 33,000. 

Populous has been contacted for comment. 

Comment: David Morley

The MCC recommendation was much as expected. The consultation process focused on the financial windfall and residential component of our scheme and the spin-off benefits for cricket were not widely discussed.

Our thinking has been based on almost 25 years of knowledge of the Nursery Ground, where we have designed the majority of the new buildings. There was no discussion about how our proposals will open up what [former English cricketer] David Gower has described as the current ‘prison like’ wall along the Wellington Road frontage and bring 365-days-a-year cricket-focused activity to animate the streetscape. 

There was no mention of the benefits of expanding the vacant underground railway tunnels to create a service undercroft which will relieve the current congestion above ground and create almost three times as much usable space for cricket related uses.

Also, the benefit of the new entrance and colonnade which we have proposed with a much wider pavement has, in my opinion, been very much downplayed.

When I watched the fantastic Women’s World Cup final last weekend I imagined how the atmosphere at Lord’s would change, if and when our scheme is built. I concluded that, once the Compton and Edrich Stands have also been rebuilt, the very special ‘look and feel’ of Lords would be as strong as ever and the public frontage would be very positively transformed. I remain hopeful that these benefits will, in due course, be fully appreciated.

Regarding next steps, we are problem-solvers who are passionate to get the best solution for Lord’s and so we will respond to whatever questions we are asked next in the most positive way we can.

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