Ron Martin's latest programme piece on the stadium developments
I said I would be providing regular bulletins in each matchday programme as to the progress we and Sainsbury's are making with the Council.
Of course these matters do not move as quickly as we would like and nothing monumental has happened since Tuesday's (January 1st) programme to provide a conclusive steer as to when the Club's Renewal Planning Application will again be considered by the Council.
It is important to emphasise that all the major stakeholders, principally the Council, Sainsbury's and the Club are working together to find a balanced solution. Recent press could give supporters the impression that discussions around the Club's Planning Application and what is a fair financial contribution to the Town Centre Regeneration could go on indefinitely. This is absolutely not the case, for the Club, Sainsbury and I am certain the Council all want to see “diggers on site and concrete being poured”. We certainly cannot commence construction without the relevant Planning Approval and any approval must fairly reflect any changes to the law since the original consent in 2008.
The regulations did change in 2010 and it is only a result of those changes coupled with market conditions that we have approached the Council to share with them what would now be a fair and reasonable contribution to assist the Town's objective of improving the vitality and success of its High Street. The Retail Park which is the enabling development to help fund the new stadium will in our Consultant's, Savills, opinion enhance the Council's overall objective by keeping people shopping in Southend with less need to shop in neighbouring Towns.
The Fossetts Farm project and the related regeneration of Roots Hall, and last phase, Sainsbury’s existing site in London Road will, I believe, represent the biggest Regeneration Project that Southend has seen in many decades. At the heart of this Regeneration is of course your Football Club.
It would therefore make no sense to suggest that the three major stakeholders (Council, Sainsbury's and the Club) are not committed to the cause or wish for some reason to delay the project getting underway. A major regeneration to the Town providing a Flagship site for Sainsbury's and a new state of the art 22,000 seat stadium to include Hotel and Conference facilities is worth all parties fighting for…that is precisely why we are all pulling together to find a sensible way forward.
I said in the New Years Day programme that the Council are waiting for their Consultants (GL Hearn) to report further to Officers of the Council and “Hearn’s”analysis is eagerly awaited. This would then allow the Clubs Application which was recommended for Approval in December to go back to the Planning Committee as soon as possible. As advised in Tuesday’s programme the earliest available date is February 6thand we can therefore only hope that the Council’s Consultants do not loose time in preparing their further comments.
Delay in moving the Club to Fossetts Farm serves no purpose for whilst Southend United Football Club remain at Roots Hall it continues to need a heavy financial subsidy to stand any chance of competing, even in League Two, and will only become sustainable when this project is complete and our Club's clear potential realised.
We now have 2 weeks before I will be able to update you (Plymouth, 19thJanuary) when hopefully I will have something more substantive to say both about the timing and what progress we and Sainsbury are making with the related purchase of Prospects College. ‘Prospects’ (the vacant building adjacent Roots Hall in Fairfax Drive) has been an ongoing saga and the Club and Sainsbury's hope to find a solution via negotiation with the College's chiefs rather than requesting the Council to consider acquiring the site by Compulsory Purchase - as has previously been considered. As anticipated there has been further discussion between Sainsbury's and Prospects College since New Years Day and those discussions continue with a planned meeting next week.
In between we have two vital Cup Games starting with Today’s FA Cup match against Brentford who are currently flying high in League One. Nevertheless we are at Home and your brilliant support can see us in the hat for the tomorrow’s fourth round draw.
Together we can achieve so much…alone we are nothing.
Up the Blues!