A number of members of the Trust were at the recent open day at the ground and had the opportunity to look at the plans for the proposed new Moy’s End stand. Although the design for this individual stand looks quite good, given the necessity of the Council to compromise on the design of a football stand in order to accommodate the STEM centre, I have reservations, shared by many others, about its suitability as part of the overall stadium development. A stand of approximately 2,500 seated capacity seems small in the context of PCCs declared intention of achieving a redeveloped stadium of 19,000 capacity. Unfortunately, it is not possible to say with any certainty whether this view is justified as no plans for the overall stadium development exist. Some very sketchy ideas have been floated for the possible means of replacing the London Road End stand but nothing at all suggested for a new North stand.
The programme for work to start on the Moy’s End is still stated to be demolition starting in Sept. 2011. The whole stand, including the STEM centre, to be complete by March 2013 with the football side being available for use 6 months before that. However, this programme was predicated on plans being submitted for planning approval by April 2011 and at the time of writing no plans have been published for public consultation let alone been submitted to for planning approval.
When the rebuilding starts parking will become restricted and problematic. It may be anticipated that the area behind Moy’s End will be unavailable as this will be taken over by contractor’s compounds and storage areas. Some additional parking may become available when the empty shop block frontingLondon Roadis demolished but the capacity of that area and the existing car park behind the North Stand will fluctuate over the next few years as the new Eco housing is built. Ultimately it is envisaged that no general public parking will be available adjacent to the ground only spaces for officials, players and some disabled parking.
A further disappointment, in the eyes of many, about the plans for the Moy’s End stand, is that it does not incorporate Safe Standing areas. At meetings with the club they have stated that they are very much in favour of Safe Standing however when asked why is it not in the plans their response (and that of PCC) has been that it is ‘too late’ for this stand but they will consider it when theLondon Roadstand is replaced. When pressed further on what makes it ‘too late’ they have not offered any specific reasons only that there are ‘too many obstacles’ but without stating what the obstacles are.
The Trust were not convinced that such ‘obstacles’ might not be perceived rather than actual. We have, therefore, taken it upon ourselves to assist the club and the council by obtaining information on the issue to try to clarify the situation.
Following correspondence with The Football League and The Football Licensing Authority we now believe that the building of Safe Standing areas, of the rail seat type that the Trust together with other supporters’ organisations promoted in their presentation last December, is practicable. In response to our questions The Football League have clearly stated that their rules permit a club to amend their standard ground regulations to suit particular circumstances and also that it is ‘at the discretion of’ the club to decide whether to compel spectators to sit. We asked The Football Licensing Authority to clearly state whether they would permit and license a stand with a rail seat configuration. Their response largely avoided answering the question directly but offered only one reason, concerning the relatively minor and easily resolved matter of sight lines, why they may not.
We now feel that we were correct in suspecting that envisaged obstacles to building a stand with Safe Standing areas do not in the main exist and/or those that do can be readily overcome.
Although we believe that we have significantly advanced the case for Safe Standing at London Road we now need the co-operation of, and some action from, PCC – and, particularly, from PUFC. In our opinion the next step should be the submission of plans showing the Moy’s End stand with rail seats incorporated to The Football Licensing Authority with a request for them to state whether they would license such a stand. Such plans could be very easily produced and would serve as a test to elicit a response from the relevant authorities and further clarify the situation. PCC would need to instruct their consultants to do this but they have said that they have no incentive to pursue the Safe Standing option as the club are not requesting it. This would seem to a very negative attitude for PCC to adopt given the huge publicity that the City would attract by being the first in the country to incorporate such an innovative feature but, if they are passing the buck to the club, it seems that it is PUFC that we must persuade to use their influence upon council officers to change their attitude from one that seeks reasons for not doing something to one of – Can Do.
To repeat myself, the club have said that they are in favour of Safe Standing – Darragh gave a very positive response when given the Safe Standing presentation – and hence the Trust will be urging them to put the necessary pressure on PCC to give substance to their stated wishes. Even if their statement that it is ‘too late’ for Moy’s End is correct (and we don’t believe it is) then the earliest action is required to make sure that it does not also become ‘too late’ for the London Road End Development Plans.
Paul Froggitt 04/04/11