GREEN BARMY: Plymouth Argyle's failed plans for a new stand at Home Park
IT IS appropriate that with the current grandstand ever closer to the wrecking ball, Green Barmy is this season looking at the changing face of Home Park through the ages.
Following the destruction inflicted on Home Park by the Luftwaffe during World War Two, the directors set about the rebuilding process, which included a new main stand.
But the first plans were not for the grandstand that has stood on the southern side of Home Park for the last 62 years.
The original plan was for a stand that would seat 4,400 spectators and incorporate new club offices, training facilities, including a gymnasium, dressing rooms and baths.
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The City Engineer, J Paton Watson, was presented with the plan for his consideration and approval by the council.
With an estimated cost of £72,000, the preliminary plans were drawn up by Archibald Leitch and partners of London, the architects who drew up the plans for the grandstand that was eventually built.
Already heralded for the design of stands at Ibrox and White Hart Lane, Leitch saw the opportunity to link up a new stand with the covered terracing at The Devonport End, where the roof and steel bracing was due to be renewed.
At 400 feet in length and 73 feet in depth, the stand, had it been built, would have dominated not only Home Park stadium, but also the Central Park skyline.
The roof of the proposed stand would have projected approximately 37 feet over the front of the seating which would provide cover for the new terracing from the bottom of the stand, 24 feet above the pitch, to almost the perimeter of the playing surface.
With commanding views from all areas of the grandstand, the top row of seating would have seen supporters 46 feet above the field.
In addition to the 4,400 that could be seated in the stand, there would also be room for 13,500 spectators in what would eventually become the Mayflower Terrace.
At the top of the stand, to the rear, the plan incorporated an 'accommodation flat' to incorporate offices, a boardroom and a communal tea-room.
Argyle's directors advised supporters that, if the plan was approved, it would be impossible to complete the building work in one phase.
However, they stated that a priority was to provide as much shelter against the elements as possible to supporters.
But as the directors of the club were to discover, if they thought the ride to a new grandstand was to be a smooth one, they were seriously misled.
Home Park was, of course, not the only part of Plymouth that was going through major post-War transformation.
As the plans for the grandstand were put before councillors, other proposals included the transformation of the corner sites of Phoenix Way and Royal Parade. The Dingles, now House of Fraser, department store would be on one site, and the Pearl Assurance offices on the other, described as a 'magnificent centre-piece for the new city'.
Between the city centre and Home Park, the Minister of Transport had recommended a grant for the construction of Pennycomequick roundabout with associated road improvements.
Despite the need to rebuild Plymouth following the ravages of war, the city was determined that all plans were of a certain standard, and were not rushing to ensure buildings were in place as quickly as possible.
Within the council chamber, there were serious misgivings about Argyle's application to build a new stand.
In a letter to Alderman Sir Clifford Tozer, the chairman of the club, the city architect and surveyor stated that, after examination of the drawings illustrating the project, he could not reconcile the estimate that the stand could be cleared within six-and-a-half minutes in case of an emergency, given the number of exits from the stand.
The city calculated that 40 people would be able to pass through a 'unit of exit width' in one minute. On that basis, it would take around nine minutes for the stand to be cleared of spectators.
It was not just the calculated evacuation time that was of concern. City officials were wary that after leaving the stand, each spectator had to take their turn in getting out of the ground and a revision was recommended that would prove to clear the stand in just five minutes.
Just a month later, another critical letter virtually put the project to an end.
The city fathers had serious misgivings about the stand's appearance, and the Parks Committee instructed the city engineer to consult the city architect on his observations.
They included the following comments:
"Architecturally, the scheme is, in my opinion, very poor with meaningless features at the ends and in the centre. You can hardly expect me to say anything complimentary about the external appearance of the proposed building.
"The fenestration (openings in the walls) is out of scale and the concrete string courses badly placed. The use of brick panels is altogether unfortunate and I agree entirely with the suggestion that the whole grandstand should be designed as a homogenous structure of reinforced concrete."
The report did not mince its words in conclusion:
"The structure proposal to be erected is nothing more or less than a gaunt corrugated iron shed."
"To achieve a result worthy of its position in the City's largest open space, the project should be tackled boldly."
Further communication, dated April 1950, put the seal on the ill-fated plan for the grandstand.
The city engineer put on record that three months had passed without reply to his original concerns.
The short reminder letter concluded:
"As the Special Works Committee is not prepared to recommend the plans for approval, I think it would be best for me to return them."
The typed, single-sheet piece of paper was the last communication of a grand plan that failed to come to fruition.
NEXT WEEK: Back to the drawing board with a new design