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Ray of Hope Part 1
By: Todd Bontoft
So our dream of a new stadium in Great Coates is dead in the water or is it?
For over a decade, the club has been looking at relocating its home, and for well over a year, seriously working on relocating to a new 20,100 seated stadium on the outskirts of Great Coates, Grimsby. The arguments for moving are well known: the club currently losing Â£1m a year; redeveloping the geriatric 100 year old Blundell Park is not considered feasible. The stadium offers the only hope for the club's success on and off the field.
The scheme includes retail developments on the same site that would help finance the project. But before the scheme can progress past the drawing board and get planning permission, a document called the 'local plan' must be amended. This local plan - still legal despite being in draft form - controls all building development within North East Lincolnshire. It provides the blueprint for what and where developments take place and the types of use land is to be put. Covering the whole of North East Lincolnshire, the local plan ensures each portion of land is categorised as industrial, houses, retail or greenbelt etc. Any amendment would require a vote by North East Lincolnshire Council.
On the eve of the vote, the club published the results of their comprehensive survey of every household in the entire county. Of almost 14,000 who returned the questionnaire, 84 per cent supported building the stadium off the A180 at Great Coates; 11 per cent opposed the scheme, with every ward showing a clear majority in support.
Even the ward Freshney, that includes Great Coates, had a majority vote in favour of the scheme with 63 per cent of the 1,160 respondents in favour, and 33 per cent against.
Despite the overwhelming public support, a supportive editorial in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph "It's time to vote yes for our Town", and the recommendation by the council's director of planning, Keith Archer, to allow the stadium, the evening of 13th July witnessed councillors voting down the proposals 20 votes to nine. Twelve councillors could not take part as they 'supported the club' and the decision effectively killed the prospect of planning permission being granted, with an appeal taking around 18 months. Too long, with mounting losses, for a realistic chance of maintaining first division survival by the cash strapped club.
The club and its supporters suddenly found themselves aimlessly drifting in a dense sea mist with no land in sight, from clear skies and a prevailing wind a matter of days before. Without a new home, the future looks bleak. But could there be a ray of hope?
The article continues in Part 2.
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