Colchester hit by new stadium delays

NEWLY promoted Colchester United will not be playing football at a new ground until at least Christmas 2007, it has been revealed. After an amazing season which saw the U's promoted to the Championship on the final day, the focus has once again turned to the club's small and outdated Layer Road ground.

NEWLY promoted Colchester United will not be playing football at a new ground until at least Christmas 2007, it has been revealed.

After an amazing season which saw the U's promoted to the Championship on the final day, the focus has once again turned to the club's small and outdated Layer Road ground.

Fans had hoped to be moving into a new community stadium at Cuckoo Farm, to the north of Colchester, for the start of 2007/8 season following the completion of land deals.

But speaking to the EADT, the club's chief executive, Marie Partner, said the first games of that season are likely to be at Layer Road.


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The announcement will come as a blow to fans desperate to get into the new 10,000-seat ground, although it is hoped construction work will still begin later this summer.

The latest setback in the long-running saga has not been caused by a specific problem but simply by the amount of complex work needed on the project, including securing a loan to Colchester Borough Council to fund construction.

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Even during the jubilant scenes in the town's High Street during the victory parade on Monday evening, attention turned to the future with thousands chanting “we want a new stadium”.

Although Layer Road may be a tough venue for teams to come and play, it only has a capacity of 6,199 and the club is not able to make profits from activities such as conferencing and banqueting.

Mrs Partner said: “I think - from where we have come from and where we are now - that the club has a fantastic future ahead with plans for the Community Stadium for 2007/8.

“Realistically it will be Christmas of 2007 as a 'move in' date. People have waited 30 years and I hope they will be prepared to wait two to three months longer to move in.

“Layer Road has never allowed us to expand commercially and we cannot always rely on gate receipts - that is your bread and butter money.”

She said the new stadium, with its conferencing facilities, banqueting and hospitality - “where the money is made” would allow funds be ploughed back into the club.

Yesterday, Jon Burns, chairman of the Colchester United Supporters' Association, said: “The campaign for the new Colchester Community Stadium has gone on a long time, but the focus should certainly not go away.

“In an ideal world the U's first season in the Championship would have taken place there, but sadly the obstacles were not overcome quickly enough for either the club or its supporters. I hope that lessons have been learnt.

“We should not feel embarrassed to welcome the likes of Sunderland and Birmingham City. Indeed, it could work to our advantage, but clearly the financial needs of the club to maintain its Championship status next season will be hindered by the obvious cap on income creation at Layer Road.

“A challenge, yes, but one I know that everybody will work very hard to overcome.

“It will be an historic and memorable season for all U's fans, but if the club is to build still further on this success, then it must leave Layer Road and the sooner into the 2007/08 season the better.”

Robert Davidson, councillor in charge of regeneration, said: “It is my intention to drive it forward, it will bring opportunities not just for local residents but all residents of Colchester.

“It will be a new home for the football club and others and we will do it as expediently as possible.”

Mike Crouch, executive director at the council, said: “We understand everyone's wish to see it up and running sooner rather than later, but it is an extremely complex development project.

“On top of that, bearing in mind the council will be providing most of the capital which will be borrowed so it is public money, we have to be extremely careful and very prudent about how we do it.”

He said the council would rather take a “month or two” longer rather than rush anything and regret it in the future.

The council is now in the process of compiling a traffic impact assessment which it hopes will convince Essex County Council and local residents the stadium can go ahead prior to a new junction allowing access from the A12.

n THE EADT is giving you the chance to be a proud owner of a fabulous Colchester United celebration poster.

The photo, taken by EADT's James Fletcher, shows the glorious scene of jubilation in the changing room at Yeovil after the U's clinched promotion to the Championship.

The glossy poster is free from selected retailers from tomorrow when you buy an EADT.

The following shops will be stocking the poster, while stocks last -

Hood Post Office, Dedham; Honeycroft Post Office, Manningtree; Sainsbury, Tollgate, Colchester; Tesco, Highwoods, Colchester; Stourview Stores, Manningtree; Smiths, Frinton; Patel Post Office, Great Horkesley; Layer Road Stores, Colchester; Newstrend, Ardleigh.

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