County Ground Redevelopment: Some realism at last!

The club AGM on Wednesday evening revealed major changes to plans for the redevelopment of the County Ground.

The new four phase proposal now sees the stadium capacity increased to 19,000 with room for the future capacity expansion to 25,000 to meet an as yet unidentified demand.

First the Town End would be rebuilt to form a 4,000 seater stand, followed by the refitting of the Don Rogers with corporate boxes integrated into the structure…a design which really should have been included in the rushed building of the stand back in the summer of 1994.

Thirdly, the Stratton Bank would be roofed and set-aside for sole use for away fans, and fourthly, The Arkells Stand will have a major refurbishment and expansion of its facilities.

Given that less than six months ago the board were actively promoting a 25,000 seater stadium through the re-orientation of the pitch by 90 degrees, demolishing and erecting a new build Arkells, Town End and Stratton Bank and altering the Don Rogers, the downsizing and apparent climbdown is drastic, although welcomed here.

The previous proposals for an essentially brand new County Ground, modelled on the Reebok Stadium, would have involved major disruption to the club and beyond us financially. Where was the enabling development to pay for the shiny new ground and was any real business case presented?

Also, there is nothing inherently wrong with the Arkells Stand or Don Rogers, so the demolition of the former and part demolition of the later was always an unnecessary and expensive way to solve the Stratton Bank problem, i.e. the impact of the height of any new structure and roof on the residential neighbours behind. In any respect the club had secured planning permission for a smaller version of the Don Rogers to replace the Stratton Bank back in the mid 1990s, but never built the stand.

I’ve always been critical of the board’s ability to deliver their original proposals, the financial backing for this mamouth development and timescales for implementation. As I reviewed in the post County Ground Development Some Realism Needed – back in September, Fitton raised hopes by informing supporters that an application could be in before the year was up, with work to commence in May…well I’m still waiting for it to happen.

A few months on, the board must be praised in their actions to substantially increase turnover and make the club profitable. In doing so their new stadium redevelopment proposal now better reflects their actions and achievements so far off the pitch to create a well run and sustainable club, a club we’ll all be watching in 10, 25…50 years time in a stadium with 4 stands, unlike…

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