latest news, august 2008

'No secrets' says Terras chief
By Adam Summers

Thursday 28th August 2008

WEYMOUTH Football Club chairman Malcolm Curtis has insisted there are no 'hidden secrets' in his plans to build the club's new ground off Monmouth Avenue.

The property developer also made it clear when unveiling the vision document at the Wessex Stadium yesterday that his bold proposal for a Community Sports Stadium will only go ahead if the town supports the idea.

The arena, which will be positioned between Weymouth Rugby Club and the planned park and ride facility, will include five-a-side pitches, a training pitch, eight corporate boxes, a community hall, a social bar, a creche, a cafe and a club shop, and will cost between £7-£10million.

The eco-friendly plans also include a nature trail and a new clubhouse for Weymouth Rugby Club but the stadium's capacity will not be any higher than the current ground and has been estimated at between 4,500 and 6,000 depending on Football League guidelines on seating.

Mr Curtis' aim is to deliver the stadium by the spring of 2012 in the build-up to the London Olympics when Weymouth and Portland will host sailing events.

Other sites were also considered, including the Marsh, Curtis Fields and Redlands, but Mr Curtis is happy with the final choice.

He said: "For me Weymouth Rugby Club was the least favourite site when we started because there were a lot of things we had to overcome but I think we have done that to a certain degree although there is still a long way to go.

"From a transport perspective it was the favoured one due to the park and ride for in excess of 1,000 cars that already has planning consent. "And contrary to reports there will be no access to the stadium from Monmouth Avenue.

"The pitch itself will be one-and-a-half metres to two metres below ground level so the three-storey main stand, which will include a basement level, will look no higher than a chalet bungalow from the outside.

"It will also have a grass roof and will be eco-friendly, and will be accessible from Lodmoor Country Park along a new trail that will also be developed. From the proposed relief road it will hardly be seen and it will be totally enclosed ensuring both sound and light does not escape, and there is a good atmosphere.

"As well as five-a-side pitches and a training pitch, within the stadium itself there will also be a cafe, a creche, a gymnasium, a social bar, and conference, seminar and function rooms ensuring that people use the club seven days a week and not just on a match day.

"That is what is going to need to happen to make it sustainable and that is why we need the whole community to get behind it. If they do not, then believe me it will not happen. This is not something that will just be pushed through like the Pavilion.

"That is why we have come up with a vision document for debate and discussion. And this is not the finished article either. There are still a lot of things to be considered, but hopefully people will see the positives in it and not just the negatives."

The new stadium is not dependent on the planned Weymouth Relief Road but it will need funding from the sale of the Wessex Stadium site.

Mr Curtis added: "If the road does not get built it would not be the end of the world. The park and ride has consent and is very much a part of the plans for 2012, so by hook or by crook no matter what happens, it will still be there.

"As for the cost, it will take £7-10 million to deliver. There are grants available from the likes of the Football Foundation and Sport England but they are only estimated at around £1.5m. That leaves us with a minimum of £8m to find.

"The only way we can achieve that is by developing the current site. We have held talks with the Jersey Trust about the land adjacent to us behind the police station and with that and the 11 acres we have, which includes the bungalow that we own, it would take it up to around 25 acres.

"We need to find a way to get the budget required for the new stadium out of this site but what goes on here is not clear at the moment. A supermarket is a possibility but the authorities are also looking for brown field sites to develop for housing.

"To be honest, I think it will be a mixed-use site with business units, possibly some retail and some housing as well.

"If something is left at the end of it then there might be some pennies left for me but my only driver is to deliver that new stadium and if people get behind it and support it, we would be looking to submit an application next spring."

Mr Curtis has held talks with English Nature, Dorset Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, Weymouth Rugby Club, Dorset County Council, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and West Dorset District Council, and admits some people are still undecided.

He said: "We have held talks with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and they are indifferent. They are sitting on the fence as to whether they are for it or not and from a planning perspective we might have a difficult road. That is another reason why we, as a community, must give them every reason to be for it.

"I have also met with the rugby club and I suggest they have everything to gain from this and nothing to lose, but they might not think that. We will have to wait and see.

"All I will say is that there is always a reason for why not but in this case there are also a lot of reasons for why. It is up to people to decide."


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