Questions have been raised about plans, unveiled today, for a redeveloped Selhurst Park stadium for Crystal Palace Football Club.
The club has been considering up-grading Selhurst Park for at least five years. Yet sources at Croydon Town Hall say that the blueprints for the scheme were only presented to the council’s planning department within the past fortnight for pre-application discussions, and there is a suggestion that the club is yet to open talks with Sainsbury’s, who operate a superstore on the football ground site.
Unmentioned at today’s launch and in the glossy presentation which was slavishly published at the weekend by a Guildford-based, small-circulation newspaper, is that the scheme would also require the demolition of seven houses, on Wooderson Close, and that this would need a Compulsory Purchase Order through the council.
The scheme is large enough that it would also have to be referred to the regional planners working under the Mayor of London at City Hall.
“They know there’s local elections coming up, and Steve O’Connell, the Tory councillor, is close to the club boardroom,” a Katharine Street source said today.
“They must think that they can railroad this through planning in a hurry now, because the council wouldn’t dare be seen to undermine a scheme which benefits the local football club. But things are never that simple.”
There’s also some scepticism about the £100million price tag attached to the scheme and its timetable. Intended to increase the ground capacity by a mere 8,000 seats – from 26,000 to 34,000 – the project appears mainly to be the redevelopment of the old, wooden stand, with the construction of a five-storey building offering a big increase in corporate hospitality boxes. Palace have put a value of £41million on this aspect of the scheme. It’s unclear where the other £60million included in their cost estimates is to be spent.
It is just over a year since Palace got two new co-owners, Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, with promised investment and a background in running sports franchises in the United States. In America, corporate hospitality can be big business, although the experience of football clubs in England outside the “Big 6” is that flogging over-priced prawn sandwiches and warm lager for a 500 quid a time is not always a guarantee for success. Anyone seen Coventry lately?
Work could start in the next 12 months, Palace chairman and co-owner Steve Parish predicted today. Yet Palace are claiming that the stand will take three years to build. Tottenham’s £800million new stadium is being built in half that time.
Parish’s scheme would also give the stadium a bigger pitch, to bring Selhurst Park in line with Uefa regulations so it can host European tournament football, and a new museum.
The club have played at Selhurst Park since 1924.
“We need a stadium that reflects who we are, how far we have come and where we want to go,” Parish said.
“We have worked long and hard and looked at several options over the years, including returning to the original site of Crystal Palace, which wasn’t viable. While we can’t go back to it, we can build a new one.”
The club’s development website states, “The centrepiece of the redevelopment is a stunning new five-storey stand featuring an all-glass front – a homage to the club’s earliest days when it stood in the shadows of the original Crystal Palace, erected on Sydenham Hill. A central vaulted arch, with the famous Eagle crest, is a reminder of the iconic 1851 Exhibition Hall, and eagle wings flank the 41-metre structure.
“The project is being designed by leading stadium architects KSS, the firm behind the redevelopment of iconic sporting venues, including Anfield, Twickenham and Wimbledon. The roof of the new stand will be designed to funnel sound down to the pitch and the Arthur Wait Stand opposite.
“Plans will be submitted to Croydon Council in January and, subject to planning permission being granted, work would begin in the next 12 months. The project is likely to take up to three years to complete. The existing Main Stand will remain in full operational use throughout the build process, minimising the impact on the stadium capacity in the coming seasons.”
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