Cray Wanderers
Cray Wanderers’ new 1,300-capacity ground, with the Sidcup by-pass beneath it

London’s oldest football club has finally been given the go-ahead to build a new stadium and 40 homes at Flamingo Park, off the Sidcup by-pass.

Cray Wanderers are celebrating after London Mayor Sadiq Khan backed their scheme to move to the site close to the borders of Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich boroughs.

Bromley councillors voted 11-3 in favour of the project earlier this year. The scheme includes the demolition of a nightclub and concreting over Green Belt land to create new 3G football pitches and homes.

Despite the club being given planning permission locally, City Hall wanted more details on the scheme.

The mayor blocked plans in 2016 for a new ground, but finally gave the new stadium the green light on Monday.

Writing on Twitter, the Wands’ chairman Gary Hillman said: “Just had the best phone call ever! Football’s coming home! GLA have approved Flamingo Park Planning! Cray Wanderers homeless since 1973 and now it’s coming home!”

Cray Wanderers new ground
Glory days: The club is hoping for a bright future with its own ground for the first time in decades

The new stadium will be able to house 1,300 fans, and there are also plans for three additional 11 a-side pitches, a seven-a-side pitch and two five a-side pitches which will be used by the club’s junior sides. Subject to sign-off from the government, it is due to be ready by 2021.

Cray Wanderers play in the Isthmian League Division One South, the eighth tier of English football and four levels below the Football League. They are currently based at Bromley FC’s Hayes Lane ground.

The London Mayor blocked the original project to protect Green Belt land, but councillors said the latest plan was special enough to justify development.

Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will not seek to block Cray Wanderers FC’s excellent proposals for Flamingo Park again.

“The scheme gives a disused and unfulfilled site a new lease of life, secures a permanent home for a historic club, and provides much needed opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation where none currently exist.

“It’s great news for the club, as well as the wider community, and I look forward to continuing working with everyone involved to see these plans come to fruition.”

Cray Wanderers development
40 new homes – 26 three-bedroom houses, 12 two-bedroom flats and four one-bedroom flats – will also be built

A City Hall spokesperson said: “The Mayor is delighted to have approved this application and to have secured the long-term future of this much-loved football club.

“He is particularly pleased that concerns that he raised two years ago regarding the layout of the stadium and proposed development on the Green Belt have been addressed.

“Sadiq hopes Cray Wanderers will be able to go from strength to strength now that they have moved a step closer to securing their new home.”

Almost 600 people wrote to Bromley Council in favour of the Flamingo Park project, and more than 1,000 letters were delivered to City Hall.

The club, which was established in 1860,  plans “more greenbelt openness”, an extra community pitch, and 42 homes (five at “affordable rent”, the rest for shared ownership). It has tried every year since 2007 to get a new, permanent home built.

Cray Wanderers new ground
The club is the oldest in Greater London

Cray Wanderers are the second oldest association football club in the world, the oldest being Sheffield FC. Wanderers were formed when workers building the Cray Valley railway viaduct had a “lunchtime kickabout” with villagers from St Mary Cray, according to the club.

The club has been based away from its traditional home of St Mary Cray since 1973, when it lost its Grassmeade ground and moved to Oxford Road, Sidcup. It has been groundsharing at Bromley since 1998.

Story updated on Thursday 28 November to include 2021 completion date and City Hall quote.

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Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Scheme is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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