VIDEO: £50million plan for Home Park gets the green light
MAJOR £50million plans to breathe fresh life into Home Park have been approved by the council.
Members of Plymouth City Council's planning committee this evening voted unanimously in favour of plans that will see a new grandstand built for Plymouth Argyle, with an IMAX cinema, hotel and ice rink springing up on land beside the stadium.
Plymouth Argyle fans had gathered en masse at the Council House for the crunch meeting, which began at 4pm.
The proposal from Greens owner James Brent’s Akkeron Group will see him redevelop Argyle’s Mayflower stand and build an ice rink, hotel, cinema and shops.
Mr Brent received applause from the public seating area as he had his chance to address the committee.
He told councillors the development would boost Argyle's finances and create a "leisure and sporting centre of excellence for the south west."
You will soon be able to replay the live webcast of the all-important meeting, as well as follow all the reaction, below.
Plymouth City Council development manager Robert Heard outlined the plans to councillors ahead of the vote.
Local councillor Dr John Mahoney said nearby residents had concerns about parking. He backed the plans but said locals objected to a cinema being built on the site.
Objector Amanda Sutherland called for a deferral. She told councillors how she feared the pricey removal of trees in an issue that had been "shunted aside". She said she also wanted to know where the construction waste would go.
Mr Brent told councillors the facilities would be high-quality, encouraging families to take a trip to Home Park.
He said the development would create an estimated 1,000 jobs and "materially improve the facilities in Central Park".
He said it would be an "important step forward" in the redevelopment of Plymouth, linking the waterfront to the heart of the city.
Planning officers said there was unlikely to be more than a "minimal" impact on trade in the city centre.
Committee member Cllr Patrick Nicholson said he had concerns about the plans, especially regarding transport.
He also said he believed it appeared there had been "pressure" on the council to agree to the plans from the developer.
Cllr Nicholson was also applauded after raising questions. A number of campaigners from the Friends of Central Park Group, which opposes the plans, are also in attendance at the meeting.
Cllr Ian Darcy said he welcomed the investment and jobs the development would bring but said he wanted to see more car parking spaces.
Several councillors raised concerns about whether the planned 380 parking spaces would be adequate to support the proposed IMAX cinema.
A number of committee members also expressed fears that several fine details had not yet been formally submitted, including a car park management strategy.
Cllr Nicholson suggested a series of amendments to planning conditions.
In particular he wanted a parking contribution to be included in the Section 106 agreement - the amount of cash or facilities for the local community a developer must promise to deliver - before it is signed.
The meeting was adjourned for six minutes while councillors attempted to resolve the issues.
After 19 minutes of talks with planning officers, Mr Brent agreed to contribute £25,000 towards parking, which was accepted by the committee.
Ahead of the vote, committee chair Cllr Bill Stevens said the development would take the city "slap bang into the 21st century".
Pilgrims players Conor Hourihane, Curtis Nelson, Lewis Alessandra and Guy Branston - along with club owner James Brent - are also in attendance as the council's planning committee decided whether to rubber-stamp the ambitious project.
After arond two and a half hours of debate, councillors voted unanimously in favour of the plans.
There were cheers from the public seating area as the historic moment arrived.
The Herald today called on city councillors to back the application following support from Plymouth residents, business leaders and planning officials.
Earlier, Martyn Starnes, chief executive of Plymouth Argyle, said: “We’re all hoping there’s going to be a positive outcome from today’s planning meeting because it’s extremely important for the future of the football club.
“We want to get on with a development which will mean increased revenues and better facilities for our supporters and for the city of Plymouth.
“The better facilities you can offer, the easier it is to attract both players and supporters.
“I am of the opinion that a football club, football being the biggest spectator sport in the country, should be at the hub of sporting facilities.”
The people of Plymouth had voted in favour of the planned redevelopment, according to a poll on The Herald’s website plymouthherald.co.uk
Of the 2,226 votes cast, 1,238 people, or 56 per cent of voters, have said the plans should go ahead.
And the £50million scheme to redevelop the area around Argyle’s home ground has already won the backing of city business leaders.
Planning officers also recommended that full planning permission is granted.
As part of the development, Akkeron Leisure will deliver £1.1million worth of improvement to Central Park.
Improvements include new tree-lined routes, changing rooms for youth sports field users and gateways at key entrances to the park.
The Higher Home Park development includes a 120-bed hotel and ten-screen cinema.
There will also be more than 5,000 square metres of retail space, with room for 14 medium-sized shops or restaurants and a health centre including a dental practice.
Argyle’s new south grandstand will have seating capacity for 4,800 and include hospitality and conference facilities, players changing facilities and office.
Construction is expected to create more than 600 jobs during the two-year build and 400 on the completed site.
Work is set to start this autumn.
THE HERALD SAYS...
IT is a subject that has prompted a lively, and sometimes, heated debate in our city.
And today the plans to develop Home Park to create a much needed replacement for the Mayflower stand for Argyle fans along with a hotel, an ice rink, cinema and shops will go before a committee of councillors who will decide whether to give it the go-ahead.
The Herald has published all sides to the argument – from those worried about the impact on their neighbourhood, those who are simply grateful to James Brent for investing in Argyle and believe he has earned the right to create a financial foundation for his investment, those who object to any form of building within the boundaries of Central Park, those who feel the plans are not ambitious enough to those who are convinced the plans represent a significant step forward in the development of our city's fortunes.
It is perfectly right that we allow all sides to have their say but there comes a point when everyone should nail their colours to the mast. Today The Herald offers its support to the plans.
In the last week we have been running a poll on our website to gauge opinion and it is fair to say both those for and against the plans were well represented but in the end those in favour won the vote. We believe this is the right result and demonstrates there is a tide of popular opinion behind the proposals.
Added to this has been the support of Plymouth's business community who rightly point to the long term economic benefits the development will bring.
Council planning officers have recommended the plans be given approval and now it is down the councillors on the planning committee that meets today to make their decision.
The Herald calls on them to approve the plans. We are not glibly disregarding the feelings of those who are raising objections neither will we seek to silence their views (take a look at the facing page for proof of that) or ignore problems when they emerge. However, it is best to speak clearly and honestly.
Plymouth's future needs to be dramatically different to its past in order to generate a new kind of prosperity and vibrancy. The changes this will demand will be difficult for many to accept but change we must. The development of Higher Home park is an opportunity to embrace that different future and to create something that will underpin Plymouth's potential as a tourism and leisure destination. And that is why The Herald calls on the members of the planning committee to say yes today.