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Council leader defends football club role
7:00am Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in News
THE leader of Thurrock Council has been forced to clarify his role at a football club bidding to buy a popular sports and social club in Corringham.
Cllr John Kent is honorary president of East Thurrock United, who are looking at acquiring the Pegasus Club site, which has been left under-threat following the closure of Coryton oil refinery.
Tory councillor Mark Coxshall this week slammed the football club’s plans before joining the Pegasus Club’s committee in questioning the council leader’s role.
Responding to increasing speculation, Cllr Kent said: “If I go and watch local football people will say I am trying to further the position of the club, just like they would if I got involved in a theatre, club or any local organisation.
“I can’t let that sort of accusation get in the way.
“I have removed myself from discussions at every opportunity. Everything has been open and above board.”
The Gazette revealed last week that talks which could lead to a member buy-out will take place at the Pegasus club this weekend after a “substantial bid” by Thames Oil Port, which recently purchased the refinery site, was turned down by administrators in December.
East Thurrock United, who currently play their games at nearby Rookery Hill, are also considering purchasing the club and building a small football stadium while developing the club’s current sports facilities.
The land was included in the council’s local development framework in November, which opened to public consultation last Friday, although the council has stressed it doesn't want to remove the club site from the green belt.
But Cllr Coxshall wants to see the club maintained in its current form.
He said: “Talk of moving the football club to the site is ridiculous. I’m sure the people running the football club would love to build a new stadium on the Pegasus Club’s wonderful grounds, but that would be a disaster.
“I support the ambition of East Thurrock United to move to better facilities, but not at the expense of the Pegasus Club.”
Neil Speight, secretary of East Thurrock United, defended the club’s plans and its president.
He said: “To suggest any impropriety by East Thurrock United FC or John Kent is extremely unfair, untrue and probably actionable were he or we so minded.
“East Thurrock United and, I am sure, John, have no wish to add to the Pegasus Club’s troubles.”
He added: “We do not wish to take over the Pegasus Club, we wish to work with it and secure the future. “However, we are fortunate enough to have access to funding required to purchase the site through our owner.”
To take part in the council’s local development framework consultation and make your views on the matter known, visit www.thurrock.gov.uk/planning/strategic/content.php?page=core_strategy