AN HISTORIC football ground that holds a special place in the hearts of Colchester United fans looks set to be knocked down and turned into a housing development.

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Colchester Borough Council has announced that Layer Road stadium will be transformed into 57 new homes, 20 of which will be affordable housing.

The stadium, which was built in 1910, was used for the last time in April 2008 during a game against Stoke City.

The club then relocated to Weston Homes stadium on the northern outskirts of the town three months later and the old ground sat dormant for the next three years.

On Wednesday, the Borough Council exchanged contracts with Abbey Developments, who will build two, three and four bedroom houses on the site as well as several bungalows and flats.

In a nod to the site’s rich history, the scheme also sets out to retain part of the grassed area to form a central

open space.

Councillor Paul Smith, Portfolio Holder for Resources, said: “The Council are pleased to have exchanged contracts on the Layer Road site. The proposed scheme will help to develop the local community with the provision of new family homes.

“Following Colchester United’s relocation to the fantastic new Weston Homes Community Stadium, it is fitting that we have found an appropriate use for the club’s former home.”

MP for Colchester Bob Russell said the site should have been put to use before now but is glad to see that it has finally been put to use.

“Layer Road has very fond memories for me personally but it has had a very sad last few years. It should have been sold before the housing market collapsed. Council tax payers have had the expense and the eye sore of it ever since.

“But it is good this has now happened. I hope the developers will recognise the history of the site and be able to install a plaque or a memorial so that it is not forgotten.”

Jon Burns, chairman of Colchester United Supporter’s Association, said he too was pleased the ground was being put to use and wouldn’t be surprised if some die hard fans bought one of the houses.

“It’s got so much history and a lot of memories. It was a unique football ground but I’m delighted that the ram shackled remains will eventually be got rid of. Maybe some of our fans might have a look to see if they want to move in there.

“I like the idea that they might keep an open space right where the centre of the pitch sat. I think that would be quite nice.”

The transaction will be complete once the developers have obtained suitable planning permission based on their submitted scheme, which should be by the end of the year.

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