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Tycoon to end cricket ground row.

Byline: By Sarah Probert

A computer tycoon is trying to settle a dispute with a historic village cricket club after he fenced off part of the ground used by spectators.

David Darling, chairman of software company Codemasters, is in talks with Ashorne and Moreton Morrell Cricket Club in Warwickshire after he angered members by fencing off the top third of the field in order to provide a paddock for his horses.

Although the cricket ground is on private land, it is protected by a licence agreement, with the landowner agreeing to allow games to be played during the cricket season.

For more than a century, the grassy bank had become a popular spot for spectators to the club, which once hosted a game captained by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Now villagers fear the beauty spot will be lost forever, and spectators numbers plummet if they are forced to watch games from a more cramped area to the right of the pitch.

Although the pitch and outfield are protected by the agreement, the patch of land and grass bank makes up part of Mr Darling's 17th century property Ashorne House.

In the past, visitors had driven through a gate to the north of the cricket green and parked their cars under the trees to watch the game. The gate has now been padlocked and the area fenced off.

Villagers have said the only access to the pitch is via a footpath, which is situated off a dangerous S-bend in the road.

Mr Darling's solicitor Andrew McCuster, of Field Overell Solicitors, said the two sides were close to a settlement over the issue.

He said: "A lot of people are interested in bringing the matter to an amicable conclusion - my client is foremost in that line of people.

"My client is committed to the long term future of the cricket club and it is hoped we are close to a settlement with the club."

Stratford MP John Maples is also attempting to settle the row, which became inflamed when Mr Darling padlocked the gates several weeks ago.

He said: "I have met with the cricket ground and I said I would go and see the owner to help become a broker in this argument, which appears to be a legal dispute.

"It is a question of access to the cricket ground, particularly vehicle access, and the whole spectator site. It is a good local village activity and if we can find a solution, which I am happy to do so, it can only be for the good of the whole community."

According to reports, cricket club chairman Richard Moon said the club had been advised that because people had been gathering by the bank for more than 20 years they had "prescriptive rights".

No one from the cricket club was available for comment last night

CAPTION(S):

John Maples; David Darling
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 11, 2005
Words:479
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