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After years of speculation, it’s great to see that the owners of St Albans City FC have presented a coherent and realistic relocation plan for the club to the district council.
But what chance of a successful outcome?
The council’s apathy towards the club is transparent and well-documented. But if they feel so encumbered by their tenancy at Clarence Park, what a great opportunity this presents.
It is easy to predict that residents around York Road and Clarence Road would support the plan; also many fans of the club, myself included, would view this as an opportunity to elevate the status of the club and deliver greater success.
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There is no doubt that many football supporters are increasingly interested in ‘non-league’ football as professional football clubs wilfully price themselves out of the market and their owners and players lose touch with the game’s working class roots.
A successful and progressive city club would surely be well-supported?
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It is equally easy to predict that a section of the club’s supporters will howl in protest at efforts to escape Clarence Park and instigate progress.
Of course, Clarence Park is a picturesque and evocative ground, many of us have fond memories over many years, but at present the club is sustained by an army of volunteers and its deep-pocketed owners; against all odds our excellent management team and their committed playing staff manage to compete effectively with many clubs who are ‘full-time’.
We can confidently predict too that the familiar arguments about decimation of the Green Belt and the impact on residents in and around Bricket Wood will be wheeled out to oppose this application.
But surely this is off-set (and more) by moving the club away from its city centre location, creating considerable employment opportunities, much needed schooling and residential housing in a location that could hardly be described as ‘rural’, bounded as it is by the M25 motorway and already home to the Noke Business Park?
A few years ago the council itself submitted an outline planning application for the development of land just across the road between Lye Lane and the M25, so it’s hard to understand what reasonable and sustainable objections could be raised against this application by the football club.
And where is our sense of civic pride – surely a well-run and successful St Albans City FC is a great thing for our city, irrespective of whether you are a football fan or not?
I hope this application by the club is successful.
The owners have invested a good deal of money in keeping the club running – this is an opportunity for them to see a return on their investment, to give us a club to be (more) proud of, to generate employment and create residential housing that is badly needed in the city.
The only caveat to all this alludes to the judicious comments made by Ian Rogers, chairman of St Albans City Supporters’ Trust.
Planning permission, if granted, should guarantee a tenancy for the football club sine die and I also believe the design of the stadium needs to be conceived thoughtfully.
I have visited a number of recently-built non-league grounds over the years which completely lack atmosphere and soul.
Covered terraces behind both goals should be a bare minimum to guarantee there is atmosphere and soul in a new stadium and that it delivers a comfortable experience for the fans on the terraces.
PAUL YOUNG By email
The proposed new football stadium and housing estate means yet another bit of Green Belt is to go.
Noke Lane is a lane, it can’t take that amount of traffic and come to that neither can the A405.
If you have ever driven along it at rush hour times you’ll know that.
With a 6,000 seat stadium plus all the residents and office workers - how are they going to get there? There is no train and just a moderate bus service - oh yes by car
So where do they all park in Chiswell Green, well we could dig up another green field I suppose.
It’s bad enough with the Co-Op parking causing congestion on the Watford Road without any more.
A better site would be the Radlett airfield with an access road from the M25. DEREK WYLLIE Chiswell Green
I live at no 1 Noke Farm Cottage, Noke Lane, and was shocked to read that this proposal for a housing estate and football stadium was going to go forward for planning to StAlbans council!
My house would be suffocated by this eyesore and would be situated in the centre of this ridiculous idea, also not to mention more noise and more traffic would be created to this area, considering there’s traffic problems as it is from Junction 21A of the M25.
Noke Lane is a peaceful and beautiful countryside area and now someone else wants to destroy it!
Noke Lane, Chiswell Green
Like many of your readers I noted with great interest the latest episode in this long-running saga.
Whilst I wish the club every success and am casually acquainted with Lawrence Levy I do feel I must however take issue with the term “labour of love” used in your adjacent editorial.
We have of course yet to see any detailed proposals so any comment must perforce be pure speculation. However the headline also mentioned “900 homes” amongst the facilities to be developed and whilst my estate agency skills are a little rusty these days I reckon that provision alone transforms a largely worthless tract of farmland/Green Belt into a site worth something well in excess of £250m !
If memory serves me right Japan and South Korea expended a similar amount building all eight stadia used when they jointly hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2002!?
Make no mistake about it this is a hard-nosed business proposition, and good luck to St Albans FC should they pull it off – but a “labour of love” it is not.
The club has been fortunate to find people willing to fund its existence through difficult times. However rainbows and crocks of gold have always been part of the equation.
ROD PERKS By email
I do not recognise the Letter Francois Duranton (March 22) says I wrote a fortnight ago nor, with respect, the somewhat inflammatory interpretation your title gave it.
It said nothing about ‘EU nationals leaving the NHS’ but that while it was possible Brexit might deter some from coming here in future, I felt it ‘disappointing’ that those arguing for a reversal of the Referendum result (March 15) had resorted to that ‘fear factor’ in support of their argument.
The obvious corollary was, and has been for some while, that rather than the NHS relying so much on talent from elsewhere, we should aim to be rather more self-sufficient, something the Government now seems to accept.
As to the last paragraph, it was simply a quote from a young factory worker from another part of the UK, in response to a TV interview commenting on the outcome of the Referendum and which I found refreshingly upbeat, in contrast to the unnecessarily nasty accusations Mr Duranton makes.
Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden
I find it astonishing that a husband and wife, both lawyers, found it necessary to engage legal representation to take £42,000 from the Scout Association, or its insurers, because their son was apparently discriminated against by unpaid volunteers in a Harpenden Scout Group.
Could they not have used their skills in communication to offer the group help and support with their son rather than put Ben, his siblings and the volunteer leaders through a lot of embarrassing publicity?
STUART SINCLAIR By email
My brother Ian and I were dismayed to read the story of the boy with autism who had received a £42,000 pay out from the Scouts Association following alleged discrimination by the 10th Harpenden Scout Group.
Our parents Pat and Bob Hooper moved to Southdown in Harpenden in 1955 with their three children.
Dad had thoroughly enjoyed his experience in Scouting with the 10th North London Group based at the Holloway Road Baptist Church so was delighted to be given permission to form the 10th Harpenden Scout Troop based at Southdown Methodist Church when I became old enough to join the Cubs.
Mum became Akela with a small group of cubs and when we were old enough the Scout Troop was formed with Dad as Scout Leader.
Mum went on to become Assistant District Commissioner for Cubs and Dad, Group Scout Leader. My memories of that time are of Mum and Dad passing like ships in the night, attending committee meetings attending camps, Gang Shows at the Public Hall, gaining relevant qualifications at Gilwell whilst raising three children and working. Every one involved was a volunteer and gave of their time freely.
Laterly, Mum formed a small Cub Pack of boys with special needs and learning difficulties which included Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and undoubtedly boys on the autism spectrum. Not being accepted in the mainstream (in those days), they loved it!
Apparently the parents of the little boy in question did not take the action for the money so will no doubt donate the award to charity or to support some other group run entirely by volunteers.
Mum and Dad (no longer with us) would be extremely proud to see how the 10th Harpenden Scout Group has grown and hopefully this action will not put off other parents becoming involved in the future.
As my brother said rest in peace Ma and Pa.
KEVIN HOOPER By email
Sometimes, but not always, it takes the threat or fact of legal redress and a financial penalty -with or without the consequent bad publicity - to persuade trustees and helpers in voluntary groups to face up to their shortcomings.
It’s not just the huge wealthy ‘corporate’ charities doing good works overseas who get caught out.
In the case of an overworked under-resourced Scout troup it may be that there’s such concern over attracting the wrong kind of helper they lose focus on children with any kind of special needs - some of which may not be immediately obvious.
Mistakes are often made because lay people without the necessary knowledge and experience fail to take expert advice. Even if they do there may be a cost implication which influences their decision-making process.
In these circumstances a voluntary group -whether or not under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission - should commission an independent review of its policies and practices to ensure that in the immortal words of government “lessons will be learned”. Re-form, reform, and move on.
East Common, Harpenden