‘The Green’ clears hurdle on wooden football venue

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Forest Green Rovers stadium Image: Forest Green Rovers/Zaha Hadid

The professional football club based in Gloucestershire, England – Forest Green Rovers – have overcome another hurdle in their bid to build a new ‘eco’ stadium after the Government gave its stamp of approval to grant planning permission. Construction of the stadium is likely to begin in 2021.

Stroud District Council’s decision to allow the new stadium for the English Football League (EFL) League 2 club will not be called-in for further investigation.

Forest Green Rovers can now start plans for their new wooden football stadium after an attempt to call in the Government for a review of the development was turned down.

Stroud District Council’s planning committee approved outline plans for the League Two side’s new 5,000-seat arena in December.

The aforementioned decision means that the club will move out of its home at The New Lawn, in Nailsworth, to Eastington next to J13 of the M5 in what Forest Green Rovers calls an Eco Park.

Forest Green Rovers Chairman and owner Dale Vince confirmed on social media the call-in had been refused and can now “push on”.

After three long months of waiting, it is now stark for Forest Green Rovers that their planning approval will not be called in for review. This means the club can go ahead with the final design.

Though it has been over three years since the winning design was presented, the road to fruition is still long for Forest Green Rovers. Their outline planning application was finally approved in the second vote in December 2019, having been rejected earlier in 2019.

The Eco Park, designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid (who is no more), will be a 5,000-capacity avant-garde wooden stadium on Junction 13 of the M5, which will boast landscaped parking and two pitches, one of which will be a 4G playing surface, with access for the local community.

Forest Green Rovers’ Eco Park Stadium, planned in Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK, claims to be the world’s first stadium to be entirely made from timber.

Vince further commented that the “right decision” had been made and informed that it would take at least three years for the facility to come up. The architects say the new venue will be ready in two years’ time.

Critics of the scheme for the stadium next to Junction 13 of the M5 say it is not part of the local plan and the club’s current home in Nailsworth (UK) – will “suffer economically”.

As the development is being opposed tooth and nail by the local people, the Eastington Parish Council applied to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for an inquiry. Vince informed that plans will not be called in for review. Had that happened, there would be many more months of delays.

At a meeting held in December last year, Eastington residents were concerned about the noise and traffic congestion the new stadium would bring, and added it was not part of the district council’s local plan.

On Christmas eve last year, Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie said she backed the calls for the call-in, saying an “independent assessment” was needed.

The idea was for the stadium and its surroundings to reflect the sustainable ethos of the world’s greenest football club.

An optimistic Vince said that the earliest possible opportunity for a match there would be “three years from now”.

He further tweeted, “Good news, Eco Park is not being called in by the Government. It CAN go ahead. Great news. A waste of three months and I am sure it was politics at play, but the outcome matters more. We can push on now with more detailed designs and next steps. We are on our way.”

Writing on Facebook, Vince said, “Latest news on Eco Park – this one needs a drum roll. I’m a little beside myself. Yes, it was a waste of three months and I’m sure it was politics at play – but the outcome matters more.”

He further wrote on Facebook, “We can push on now with the detailed design and all the other next steps – plenty more hurdles to cross, but this is a big one off the list. We’re on our way, as the football song goes.”

Planning officers had said in a report presented to the committee it would allow the club to “enter a new era”.

The new stadium will be built primarily out of wood, expected to accommodate 5,000 people at first, with the option of doubling the size if there is demand for more tickets.

The stadium was planned to fit the club’s ambitions to elevate to the Championship, and is hoped to be completed for the 2023-24 football seasons.

Forest Green Rovers was named the “greenest football club in the world” in 2018.

Forest Green’s current ground New Lawn is powered by renewable energy, recycles rain water and serves vegan food to players, staff and fans.

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