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Poll: Urbanisation threatens Newmarket’s 400-year reign as the home of horse racing, says Godolphin chief Hugh Anderson

12:43 08 July 2014

Horses ride on Warren Hill last week, protesting against the Hatchfield Farm housing development in Newmarket

Horses ride on Warren Hill last week, protesting against the Hatchfield Farm housing development in Newmarket

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Urbanisation of Newmarket is threatening the town’s 400-year history as the world-famous home of horse racing, according to the boss of the country’s most powerful stables.

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Hugh Anderson, the managing director of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, said the town’s facilities made it “the envy of the world” and that Godolphin would remain “huge supporters” of Newmarket providing that remained the case.

It comes after Forest Heath District Council waved through scaled-back plans for 400 homes in Hatchfield Farm last week, despite fierce opposition from across the horse racing industry.

Both Mr Anderson and Newmarket mayor Rachel Hood yesterday renewed their calls opposing the plans, and urged secretary of state Eric Pickles to review Forest Heath’s decision.

Council planning officers have insisted there is no evidence that Lord Derby’s proposals will harm the industry, while Forest Heath leader James Waters last night vowed to work with horse racing leaders to ensure this was the case.

A planning inspector’s report into the previous application for 1,200 homes on Hatchfield Farm also concluded that the industry would be unaffected.

Mr Anderson - who spoke against the application at last week’s planning meeting - pointed to Newmarket’s “spacious and superb public gallops”, and the presence of Tattersalls alongside world-leading trainers, breeders, racehorses and vets that made it “a jewel in the crown of British sport”.

He added: “But these businesses must be carried out in an essentially rural location, and growing urbanisation is a threat to what the industry is trying to achieve in Newmarket.

“We are disappointed with the councillors’ decision last week, but not entirely surprised given the fact that the officers of Forest Heath had recommended approval.

“For 400 years Newmarket has been a superb location for training and breeding racehorses, and we will stay here as huge supporters of the town and the racing industry for as long as that remains the case.”

A report by SQW this year found horse racing was worth more than £200million to the local economy, which town mayor Rachel Hood, who is also president of the Racehorse Owners Association, said may have changed the thinking of the planning inspector over the original application.

“What’s subsequently been described as an unbelievably conservative estimate still concluded that it was far and away the largest industry in the area,” added Mrs Hood.

“Turning Newmarket into a commuter town for Cambridge I think is a bit misguided.”

Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles could still call the application in for review.

Council leader Mr Waters said: “Forest Heath District Council wants to carry on working with all parties, through Newmarket Vision, to protect the horse racing industry.

“We know it is important for the town, and we have demonstrated its value through the SQW research we jointly commissioned.”

Newmarket has been allocated more than 1,200 homes in Forest Heath’s emerging local plan, which aims to plot housing growth across the district until 2031.

Newmarket county councillor Lisa Chambers said she had tried to convince Lord Derby to withdraw his application until Forest Heath had finalised its local plan.

She added: “It would be terrible for the town if any part of the horse racing industry withdrew from Newmarket. I will continue to do what I can to support the town’s main industry to grow and prosper in the future.”

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