U's fear they could be left homeless

By Roddy AshworthA FOOTBALL club could be without a ground if a plan for a new stadium does not come to fruition soon, it has been warned.Marie Partner, chief executive of Colchester United, said its current home - the ageing Layer Road in Colchester - could be shut down on health and safety grounds within the next few years.

By Roddy Ashworth

A FOOTBALL club could be without a ground if a plan for a new stadium does not come to fruition soon, it has been warned.

Marie Partner, chief executive of Colchester United, said its current home - the ageing Layer Road in Colchester - could be shut down on health and safety grounds within the next few years.

She added although the stadium currently met the stringent standards demanded by the Football League, it would need a major refurbishment before long.


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The U's hope to move to a new community stadium - to be built as part of a council-backed regeneration project at Cuckoo Farm in north Colchester - in 2007.

But the construction of the new ground is dependent on a number of outside factors beyond the club's control.

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“If everything goes to schedule, we are looking at moving in in two years,” said Ms Partner.

“But if there was a hiccup on the way and Colchester Borough Council decided they couldn't take this project forward, we would be looking at some horrendous costings to keep Layer Road to the specifications of the Taylor Report.”

The Taylor Report requires league teams to meet strict safety standards on features such as stand structures, access routes, exits, electrical equipment and CCTV.

“Layer Road is an extremely old ground. If you look at some of the stands, although each year we keep them looking good cosmetically, in two or so years I think there would be serious money needed to maintain them - anything from £500,000 to £750,000. That is the sort of money we would not have in a pre-season budget,” she added.

John Jowers, Colchester Borough Council leader, said it was still “absolutely committed” to the new stadium.

“We will bend over backwards to help in as much as we are allowed to. There is a political will all round to do that. We see the benefits to the town - but it must be a scheme that makes financial sense,” he added.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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