Plymouth Argyle boss vows to build new grandstand in a year
PLYMOUTH Argyle will have a new grandstand and the city will have a new ice rink by next autumn, after planners gave the green light to a £50million development at Home Park.
The council chamber was packed yesterday for the most contentious planning application since the North Yard incinerator two years ago.
After almost three hours of debate councillors blew the starting whistle on the ambitious development by Argyle boss James Brent.
Mr Brent's Akkeron Group will build the grandstand, ice rink, hotel and 10-screen cinema along with shops and restaurants at Argyle's home ground.
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After the meeting a relieved Mr Brent told The Herald that the two-year construction project would start this autumn.
And he revealed that the ice rink and a replacement for Argyle's old Mayflower stand would be finished by September next year.
"I am relieved and very excited about what the future holds," he said. "To get a unanimous decision shows that the city is unified."
He said he hoped the football team would live up to its new grandstand. "I am disappointed with the first two games of this season, but I'm confident we have a strong management team and a good group of players and will progress positively."
Amanda Sutherland, for the Central Park Community Forum, told councillors the scheme contravened the park masterplan by encroaching on a protected area of Zoo Field, east of the stadium. She said that would expose the project to judicial review.
But legal officer David Shepperd quoted a previous court case which he said established that planning applications should follow the overall context of development plans and not necessarily their detail.
And councillors were told that the loss of an area of scrub would be compensated for because Cottage Field, to the south, which was previously earmarked for development, would be protected. In all, there would be an extra 3.1per cent of green space in the park.
As part of his proposal, Mr Brent will spend £1.1million on park improvements. Councillors agreed that these should be delivered in consultation with the forum.
Mr Brent said the combination of the Life Centre and his own proposals would make Plymouth the leisure and sporting centre for the South West.
Councillors unanimously approved the scheme, but insisted that they should oversee the details of community infrastructure mitigation provided by the developer.
They also won a concession from Mr Brent, who agreed to pay £25,000 towards the impact of any overspill car parking. There will be an extra 380 spaces in a car park under the new grandstand, but highways officers estimated that at peak times the demand could be for 402 spaces.
Most of the planning committee agreed with ward councillor Dr John Mahoney that there was likely to be an impact on traffic and parking. They were not convinced of the value of a cinema, but welcomed most other aspects of the plan.
There was widespread concern about the loss of up to 18 hornbeam trees along Outland Road to improve access to the site. But they were told that there would be new planting to compensate.
Afterwards, ecologist Arthur Watson said the development would "shatter" the biodiversity of the park.
Argyle manager John Sheridan said: "If you are not excited by them [the plans], there's something wrong with you – the plans look excellent.
"It will make the stadium a brilliant stadium to come and play football in."
Committee chairman Cllr Bill Stevens said: "I am delighted we've had such a thorough debate. This scheme has generated a lot of passion on all sides."
Argyle director Peter Jones said: "This will be by far the best sporting and leisure complex west of London. Plymouth is really beginning to move."
Comment – Page 11
The Herald says:
THEY said yes.
Members of the planning committee deliberated for well over two hours but finally approved the plans to develop Home Park.
The ramifications of that decision will stretch far into the future. In a decade or so we may well look back on this day and consider this to be a crucial turning point in the fortunes of our city, a day when we stepped forward to become a bolder, better city.
The Herald made absolutely no secret of the fact that it supports the plan – we devoted our front page to that support yesterday to send a clear message to the members of the committee about the importance of this project. This was not a cut and dried issue and we know we will have angered some people with our position but we wanted to make a clear and honest stand on an issue that has enormous significance for our city.
Now is not the time for people who care about Plymouth to sit on the side-lines waiting for a guarantee of success to knock on our door - if we do that the best opportunities will pass us by. Now is a time for self-belief, boldness and a willingness to embrace change.
Our support for yesterday's decision does not place the plan beyond criticism or scrutiny and we will continue to report on the development without fear or favour and give a voice to all points of view.
However, the decision to give approval to the plans was absolutely right and we applaud the planning committee for saying yes.