Stadium plans on track for 2007

COLCHESTER United supporters have been told they can be confident of cheering their team on in a new state-of-the-art stadium by 2007. But it was warned yesterday a lot of work needs to be done - including proving the business case for the venture adds up - before the dream becomes a reality.

COLCHESTER United supporters have been told they can be confident of cheering their team on in a new state-of-the-art stadium by 2007.

But it was warned yesterday a lot of work needs to be done - including proving the business case for the venture adds up - before the dream becomes a reality.

The U's are currently flying high in League One and attention has turned to the possibility of promotion to the Championship.

Having just chalked up their sixth straight win at the weekend, the news off the pitch is the club's new multi-million pound 10,000-seat home, to the north of the town, is still on course.


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The U's are set to leave the crumbling and out of date Layer Road ground and play at the specially built community stadium which will be funded largely by Colchester Borough Council.

Council chiefs are set to meet next week to discuss the project, which will also be home to other sporting and social activities.

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The current plan is for the council to borrow most of the money needed to build the £10 million stadium, with a potential £2 million grant coming from the Football Foundation.

Once the community stadium is up and running, the council will then receive revenue from ticket sales to cover interest charges on the loan.

The cabinet report, released yesterday, highlights the need for a full business case for the project - setting out the costs, benefits and risks - before the funding is rubber-stamped.

There could also be a “gateway review” to make sure the business case adds up as the development progresses.

And next week the cabinet will be asked to earmark £200,000 to cover ongoing costs as the plans move forward.

The cabinet will also be asked to set up a cross-party group made up of the leaders of each of the main political groups to oversee the development of the business case.

Robert Davidson, the councillor in charge of regeneration, said: “The complex work to secure this community stadium for Colchester goes on.

“Good progress has been achieved and this report is a timely reality check on the challenges which remain.

“The next steps will be critical for the project but I am confident that the commitment of our partnership is there to see this through.

“I would welcome the involvement of the political group leaders and the support of the community as we move forward.”

Last night, Jon Burns, the chairman of Colchester Utd Supporters' Association said: “There is no doubt about it, we are over performing, which is tremendous, and we are doing so well on tight financial reins.

“But imagine what could be achieved with greater money and income - it is an exciting time and I am sure that everybody wants it to happen because if not Colchester Utd will drift into nothingness, something of the likes of what has happened to Cambridge Utd.”

However, Mr Burns said he hoped construction would be underway by early next year.

He added: “My main worry as a supporter is as time ticks by the start of 2007/8 becomes more and more difficult and unlikely and the ramifications of that being, nothing serious but, dear old Colchester Utd and dear old chairman Mr Heard have to juggle the budgets for the start of the 2007 season being at Layer Road.”

The project is being led by Colchester2020, Colchester Borough Council, Colchester United Football Club and Colchester United Community Sports Trust.

Dave Murthwaite, Colchester 2020's lead partner on the stadium said there was a determination among the partners to see the project succeed, but said the coming weeks would be crucial.

Colchester Borough Council's cabinet will meet next Wednesday.

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