Stadium should be ready in two years

COLCHESTER'S new community stadium is now "95%-plus" certain of being built in time for the 2007-8 football season, it was claimed last night.John Jowers, leader of Colchester Borough Council, was speaking after a ground-breaking meeting appeared to have broken the deadlock over who would run the sports stadium, which will cost £10million of taxpayers' money.

By Roddy Ashworth

COLCHESTER'S new community stadium is now "95%-plus" certain of being built in time for the 2007-8 football season, it was claimed last night.

John Jowers, leader of Colchester Borough Council, was speaking after a ground-breaking meeting appeared to have broken the deadlock over who would run the sports stadium, which will cost £10million of taxpayers' money.

He said that during the meeting, chaired by Colchester Police divisional commander Dave Murthwaite, it was agreed that a new management company should be formed to run the stadium, which will be based at Cuckoo Farm in the north of the town.


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This would be made up of the council, the local strategic partnership Colchester 2020, the Colchester United Community Sports Trust and Colchester United Football Club, which will play its home games at the stadium.

The meeting heard from a representative of Hull City FC, which has recently moved into a community stadium, that the facility could be built within 15 months.

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Mr Jowers said he believed the construction of a new junction on the A12 - for years seen as a crucial part of the development - was not now essential to the scheme.

Speaking after the meeting, he told the EADT: "It was absolutely brilliant, and after recent problems we are now on target.

"I can't guarantee the precise timetable but we are now 95%-plus likely to have a football stadium at Cuckoo Farm in time for the 2007 season.

"We now have to agree exactly what we want and we have decided we will get an architectural brief together.

"We are a long, long way further down the road than we were a few hours ago."

The news was also welcomed by Marie Partner, chief executive of Colchester United FC.

She said: "The meeting held today was represented by key members of our partnerships and was very productive in driving further forward the next crucial stages required to meet our end goal."

Darren Barrenger, chairman of Colchester United Community Sports Trust, said: "The trust is extremely encouraged by recent progress and is fully engaged in the ongoing working groups meeting regularly to ensure the stadium is delivered."

The breakthrough came a day after Colchester MP Bob Russell, who was not at yesterday's meeting, called on Mr Jowers to assure the public that the council treated the community stadium project with the same enthusiasm as the proposed visual arts facility in the St Botolph's Quarter.

In his letter, Mr Russell wrote that some people believed the council was going to drop the proposal for the stadium altogether and that only a public statement would convince them the project was still on track.

Yesterday, Gareth Willshire, spokesman for Northampton Town FC, which is also based in a community stadium, Sixfields, said the club had recently taken on a 150-year lease on the property.

In the early 1990s the club had been in similar difficulties to Colchester United because of its out-dated home facilities.

"It was built by the borough council as a community stadium for the town, and opened in 1994. It took two years to build," he said,

"It has certainly been a success. There is no way the club would have survived otherwise."

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