St Albans Football Club offers options for railfreight site

PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 March 2015

St Albans FC owners John McGowan and Lawrence Levy in the home dugout

St Albans FC owners John McGowan and Lawrence Levy in the home dugout

Archant

The owners of St Albans City FC have wasted no time in pressing their case for Radlett Airfield to be used for a new football and sports academy with associated housing.

Their scheme has been in the pipeline for some time but has gained added importance with the co-owners recent admission that the cash-strapped club might not have a future - in their hands at least.

As soon as the Appeal Court decision not to overturn the granting of planning permission by Secretary of State Eric Pickles was made known, co-owner John McGowan contacted the county council - owners of the majority of the 146-hectare site - to try and arrange a meeting to discuss the football club’s plans.

He described the football club’s proposal as a ‘win win for all’ because it would protect other greenfield sites from potential housing development, relocate SACFC and free up its current home at Clarence Park for the public to enjoy.

Co-owner Lawrence Levy said that the club could put an outline scheme together ‘quite quickly’ and described the club’s proposal as “offering the best economic value, both financially and what is best for the land as well.”

He added: “We will work with a developer to put a scheme together based on the cost of the land and the profit required to develop a stadium.”

But there is reluctance in some quarters to support the scheme without knowing more about it, particularly the number of houses which would be built there.

Cathy Bolshaw of STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange - said the campaign group’s priority was to continue lobbying the county council not to sell the land to Helioslough.

Of the SACFC proposal she said: “The club is not committing itself to any sort of housing number which means they are not that far forward in their planning. Until we have some idea of what numbers they are talking about, I wouldn’t say STRiFE are supporting it.

“At the moment and what we have always fought this on is that this is Green Belt land and it should stay Green Belt land.”

County councillor and prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Sandy Walkington, described the SACFC scheme as ‘most interesting’.

He went on: “The football club has to go somewhere, no question about it, it can’t stay at Clarence Park. Either the club gets a grip and professionalises it or it stays at Clarence Park and drops down a league or two.

“I think therefore it is important not to imagine that it won’t go into the Green Belt somewhere so in some ways this is quite a clever use of the site. The problem is that football stadiums don’t come cheap so how many houses would be required and that is what we don’t know.”

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