Have Taggart’s plans for a top dog track run their race?
Paschal Taggart says his bid to build a top racing track in Wimbledon is far from finished. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
He said it wasn’t all over, but is it now?
Over a cider in the Shelbourne hotel on Tuesday, the Datalex chairman, Paschal Taggart, was adamant his £30 million bid to build a top-class dog racing track in Wimbledon was far from finished.
“It’s never over until it’s over,” he said, with a characteristically defiant flourish. But a deal struck by Nama the next day may have scuppered it for good.
The London venue is one of five British greyhound tracks controlled by Nama. They were bought for redevelopment by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital in 2005, with €60 million in backing from Irish Nationwide. Johnson, a Financial Times columnist and founder of Pizza Express, had close links to the society – his Galliard Homes is its second biggest borrower, with debts of €252 million.
Galliard and a consortium assembled by Taggart lodged rival bids with the local council to redevelop Wimbledon – Galliard for a mixed-use scheme that would include a football ground for AFC Wimbledon, and Taggart for his top-shelf greyhound facility.
“My proposal is far superior,” Taggart said on Tuesday. “That other one is just for a Mickey Mouse football team.”
Steady on there, Paschal. They didn’t call Wimbledon the “Crazy Gang” for nothing.
Taggart was in the process of rounding up 10,000 signatures in support of his plan, which were to be sent to the council and Boris Johnson, the London mayor. But subsequently it emerged that Nama has leased the track to the management of Britain’s Greyhound Racing Association, thwarting Taggart.
He said the decision is “very hard to understand, and very disappointing”.
It looks like Nama could be in the dog house.