United unfold plans of a new stadium on greenbelt land


United unfold plans of a new stadium on greenbelt land Image: Cambridge United / KSS

The Cambridge United Football Club in England has unfolded plans to build a new stadium – which can hold up to 12,000 people – to the east of the city Cambridge and close to Marshall Aerospace. The League Two club has been scouting for a new home for years now.

Leading property consultancy Stace – which worked on the development of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium – is working with the club – and design practice KSS has been roped in.

It is being proposed that the venue will be built on a site near to junction 35 on the A14 trunk road. The club wants to rewrite the traditional sports-centric arena model and make it a space for multifunctional use. A venue which can organize concerts, conferences, extended community activities as well as establish a medical center.

The club’s potential new home will be located near Stow Cum Quy off the A1303, shouting distance from its current home Abbey Stadium site, and close to Marleigh, a new development north of Newmarket Road that could house United’s new training facilities.

Plans are in place to build the stadium in such a manner that the 12,000 capacity can be increased to fit in more spectators.

“The scheme remains in its early stages, would be located on greenbelt land and plans for funding the development of the stadium are not arranged,” the club said in a statement.

The statement further read, “However, the scheme has a number of factors in its favor and primarily fits within wider plans to improve transport across the city of Cambridge, including the introduction of a new metro system that would see both the stadium and a relocated park and ride station as a key destination for a Cambridge east line.”

United’s Chief Executive Ian Mather revealed that architects KSS had come up with a radical and unusual design, clad in wood and sitting in the contours of the landscape.

The club wanted to move to a new arena in the Trumpington area, but the council did not give the go-ahead in 2013. There were plans to refurbish their present home Abbey Stadium, but that also came unstuck.

The Trumpington plan included 520 new homes, an indoor sports hall and retail parks, outdoor floodlit cycling track and BMX area, floodlit all-weather pitches and parking.

Mather said the “much-loved” Abbey Stadium on Newmarket Road was “at the end of its useful life”.

The club has been working with Marshall Aerospace and Cambridgeshire County Council to develop plans for land which would be unlocked by Marshall’s move.

Mather averred that the new arena would be “as near to zero carbon as possible”. He further added that the arena will be so designed so that it can hold events “365 days of the year”, hosting concerts, conferences and medical facilities as well as football.

The new arena’s price tag will be would be between £40m and £50m and the club hopes to attract external funding considering the fact that the arena will have added attractions. Subject to planning, Cambridge United Football Club hopes it can build the new ground within five years and before Marshall relocates. Marshall Aerospace plans to relocate from Cambridge Airport base by 2030.

Mather is of the view that the stadium will fit into the region’s political will. The first one is the need for more homes. With the present Abbey Stadium site being revamped, houses in and around the venue (12,000 homes) are a possibility.

As far as the transport angle is concerned, the stadium is set to come up next to the East Cambridge stop of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) and just off the A14.

The club has worked with leading architects KSS to come up with a sustainable design and location for the structure, which could also become a hub for future transport plans for the city, linking with the possible relocation of the Newmarket Park & Ride and the ambitious plans for the CAM Metro.

“I think the fundamentals here are that we do need a new transport system, we do need more houses. This would be part of a wider development that would allow more houses and it would also allow the Abbey site to be developed for houses,” stated a confident Mather.

The consultation period for the new arena will begin early next year. If everything goes smooth, a planning application will be submitted in 2020 and if it gets green lighted, Mather is optimistic that the new ground would come to fruition soon.

“Being realistic, this isn’t something where we’re going to stick a spade in the ground next year. The call for sites isn’t complete and there’s going to be a period of consultation next year. That takes us through to 2020 at the earliest possible date that a planning application could be made, assuming this land is included in the planning envelope,” he explained.

“From there, if we had funding and gained planning permission, this would not take that long to build as we’re on a greenfield site,” Mather asserted.

United have been looking for a new home ever since selling the Abbey Stadium to Bide awhile 445 Ltd, partly-owned by John Howard, in 2004. London-headquartered internationally diversified property group Grosvenor bought the stadium from John Howard’s company in 2010, and has been actively helping the club hunt for a new home ever since.

Mather sums up by saying, “Somebody who I respect in the world of building stadia said ‘first of all, you’ve got to actually bake a cake before you can sell it’. To that extent, if we can create something which actually is perceived and genuinely is of value in terms of the revenue it can generate by being used as more than just a football stadium, and it is of sufficiently high quality and sustainable construction, I think the funding will follow.”

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