Boost for community stadium bid

A MAJOR step in the creation of a new football stadium in Essex has been taken with contractors being asked to tender bids to build the £10million facility, the EADT can reveal.

By Roddy Ashworth

A MAJOR step in the creation of a new football stadium in Essex has been taken with contractors being asked to tender bids to build the £10million facility, the EADT can reveal.

The move comes after negotiations about who would eventually own the Colchester-based community stadium – to be financed by loans taken on by the local council – appeared to be slowing progress of the project, which has already been in the pipeline for a decade.

Colchester Borough Council last night confirmed it had opened up the doors for firms to come up with proposals for a community stadium – which is estimated to cost between £10million and £12m - that will also act as a new home for the town's football club.

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But it was stressed that under its proposals the council would not lend Colchester United FC the capital to build the stadium, but instead manage the construction phase of the project itself and then hand it over for the club to run.

The council would then retain freehold ownership of the facility as a community asset for the borough.

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Work to be tendered for consists of construction of the stadium to hold 10,000 spectators initially, with the capacity for future expansion.

A maximum of five bidders will be invited to tender for the 12-month scheme and firms have been asked to express their interest by the middle of next month.

Last night, Marie Partner, chief executive of Colchester United, said she was pleased with the way the project to build the stadium was progressing and the invitation for bids represented "great news".

She added: "A lot of people have been concerned that this might never happen, and it has been dragging its feet a bit recently.

"Essentially, as I understand it, the actual freehold of the stadium will be owned by Colchester Borough Council because it owns the land.

"But at a recent meeting it was agreed Colchester United would be looking to run the stadium, but giving a financial return on the borrowings the council has made to build it.

"I understand this had to go to tender so they could satisfy the auditors and then go before the council cabinet on July 13.

"This is great news, as even two or so weeks or so ago it seemed the project had gone on to the back foot."

Council leader John Jowers said: "It is best for us to build it and for them to run it. We are expecting and hoping the club will fully agree with that.

"If we are going to put the £8m of taxpayers' money into it we need to make sure it is our asset.

"If disaster struck and the club hit financial problems, if it owned the stadium it would be their asset and could have to go towards paying off debtors.

"It has to be a community asset owned by the people of Colchester as well as a community facility."

Colchester United currently plays in another council-owned stadium, the outdated and ageing Layer Road Ground, which it has used as its home since 1909.

Money gained by selling this site for housing development after the club has relocated will be put towards paying off the estimated £8m the council is to spend on building the new state-of-the-art community stadium.

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