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Chairman's stadium update

4 February 2013

Ron Martin's programme piece vs. Oxford United

When I wrote in the matchday programmes on the 1st and 5th January the main issue to be addressed was the supply of further information from the Council’s Planning Consultants (GL Hearn and Partners) so that the Council members could make a more informed decision when the Club’s Planning Application is placed before them again at the next Meeting of the Council.
The date of the next regular Planning Meeting is, as I advised previously, the 6th February 2013, but for the Council to bring our application back before members they will first need to consider what their consultants have to report and in turn GL Hearn and Partners would need to understand the Club’s case, in light of the further information, also. A date was being arranged for all parties to meet when I last wrote in the matchday programme on January 5th.
As there are representatives from four different organisations…the Council’s Planners (Hearn’s) the Club’s Planners (Savills), Sainsbury’s Planners (Indigo) and a representative from the Council’s internal planning department it was only possible to get everyone together on Thursday 31st January. It is therefore clear that with the next regular planning meeting of the Council only taking place a few days later the new information needing to be considered and assimilated by Officers of the Council will not enable our application to go back to Members at the 6th February meeting. All of this is very frustrating but it would be quite wrong to suggest it is anyone’s fault as the Council and the Club are working together to jointly resolve this final but fundamental issue as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless, the 31st January meeting (this update went to print on January 30th) of the Planning Consultants will hopefully have seen a ‘meeting of minds’ enabling the further information the Council are seeking to be made available in good time for the next Planning Meeting of the Council which is scheduled for March 6th 2013. Please do not think that I am in anyway patient or readily accepting of delays for that is far from the case. However, I do understand the processes and the timeframes for these matters to be considered and as such I really cannot see any reason for us not making the 6th March Council Meeting and I am sure that the Council will be doing everything possible also to assist.
In the meantime Sainsbury’s continue their dialogue with Prospects College and a great deal has been going on in the background to align other contracts for signature, including the Building Contractor, all on the same day. The purpose of this simultaneous exchange is to de-risk the project as far as possible…meaning that we only have to await the Councils decision, hopefully on March 6th, and issue of the actual Renewal Approval before having a clear view and automatic commencement on site.
By the time of the next home match (Cheltenham - 12th February) I will unquestionably know the outcome of the meeting of the Planning Consultants, held last Thursday, which will help steer the course of further discussions with the Council in advance of their scheduled meeting in 5 weeks’ time.
In the meantime we have the first stage of an exciting Cup run in the JPT. I, like I suspect most of you, had been looking at the potential opposition in the earlier rounds of the competition and thought ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to end up drawing Leyton Orient in the Area Final’ with the prize of Wembley. Amazingly that is precisely how it has turned out although not without some drama at the Oxford match….thankfully the penalty shootout went our way and we can now look forward to the first leg against the O’s next Tuesday 5th February.  Your fantastic support is always greatly appreciated and away against Leyton Orient it will be needed more than ever. Thank you to all of those supporters who have already purchased tickets. If you are still undecided it should be a tremendous night with a brilliant atmosphere to hopefully set us up for the run in to Wembley when we stage the second leg on February 19th back at Roots Hall.
The FA Cup came to an end against Brentford but none of us can reasonably argue that we deserved to win. Brentford were the better team on the night, but the situation was not helped by some of the makeshift positions that Paul had to deal with due to injury and player availability. However I shouldn’t let this moment pass without acknowledging Paul Smith;s outstanding performance without which it would have been an embarrassing score line…as it happens we were only one goal behind Chelsea!
The meeting of the Council that we are now all waiting for and which will allow construction to follow is the First Phase of the construction and in the coming months we will be finalising and submitting the amended plans for the West Stand to complete the Stadium. These plans will not change the bulk or fundamental design but seek to reconfigure the building internally and also ‘attach’ improved commercial content to help underpin lost values since the original approval.
Like all things when something goes against you we try and apply our mind to ‘thinking outside the box’ which we have been doing over the past three years to ensure this project stays on track…we will not saddle the Club with debt and therefore the original scheme viability must be adhered to if ‘The Blues’ are to succeed and grow.
The revised plans of the West Stand when submitted will also include a dedicated Supporters Pub/Restaurant “The Shrimper” on adjacent. Whilst it would be wrong of me to discuss the plans until the Council have had an opportunity of understanding the detail I am including, below, a ‘taster’ in order to give supporters an initial idea of the concept and the further facilities we are wishing to provide in an effort to shape the Club’s future. I look forward to providing further information on this element once we have conducted our consultations with Southend Borough Council.
Finally today we face Oxford again and we know from our recent trip to the Kassam Stadium that they are tough opposition. Your vocal support will, as always, spur on our players hopefully to victory as it is automatic promotion we want, not the lottery of the play offs.

Up the Blues!

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