Fire-hit cricket club closes

MEMBERS of a fire-hit cricket club have given up the struggle to stay at the crease.

Peterlee Cricket and Social Club committee members have voted to officially wind up the club 20 months after the popular venue was severely damaged by a blaze.

Five staff have lost their jobs as a result of the closure.

The decision follows a bitter battle with Peterlee Town Council, which club members previously claimed had “no intention” of re-opening the Helford Road-based club.

Management committee chairman and trustee Ged Canavan said: “I’m extremely sad and disappointed that the club, which has been a part of the community since 1977, has been forced to close.”

He said club members had been told last August that plans were in place to have the club re-built.

But he said within two weeks, an eviction notice was served on the club over claims that it had breached its lease by being “more a gentleman’s drinking club than a community club”, which members denied was the case.

Committee chiefs sought legal advice, but had to back down when they agreed they would not be able to afford the costs to take the council to court.

Mr Canavan said: “We are absolutely gutted. There were nearly 70 members at the closure meeting and they were all disappointed. A number of our members were very despondent.”

Mr Canavan said four generations had passed through the club and it had been “part of the fabric of town life”.

He added that members had now dispersed, with some using the Hearts of Oak pub and Peterlee Catholic Club, and others just not bothering to go out any more.

Mr Canavan said the Hearts of Oak, which is hosting a farewell meeting for cricket club members this weekend, had been “an example of how a community should work” and added: “It’s a shame Peterlee Town Council doesn’t have the same spirit.”

Club stewardess Eileen Evans added: “We’re all absolutely gutted.

“We go to other places but everywhere you go, our members are sitting there and they are lost.

“It wasn’t just a club, it was a community.”

The £15,000 left from the committee funds is to be given to Macmillan Cancer Support, the Helping Hand charity, Andy Reid’s youth football team and The Alzheimer’s Society, in memory of former MP Raymond Boyes from Peterlee, the club’s original patron, who suffered from the disease.

The club was opened in 1979 by former Yorkshire and England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott and had 250 committee members.

A social evening dedicated to the club will be held at The Hearts of Oak, in Oakerside Drive, this Saturday, from 7pm.

Town council clerk Jane Russell and council leader Bill Jeffrey did not wish to comment.