Stevenage FC ‘stunned’ as paperwork blunder leads to North Stand work being halted

PUBLISHED: 17:30 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:00 20 June 2018

Demolition of the old North stand at Stevenage FC is completed. Picture: Danny Loo

Demolition of the old North stand at Stevenage FC is completed. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

A red tape blunder has led to work being halted on “stunned” Stevenage FC’s new North Stand.

An artists impression of the new Stevenage North Stand An artists impression of the new Stevenage North Stand

The League Two side have been forced to stop work on the building site next to the A602 intended to be the 1,428 all-seater stand after a bureaucratic mix-up between Stevenage Borough Council and UK Power Networks.

The delay could result in the opening of the new stand – which is being partly funded by a community mini-bond scheme – being put back until 2019.

The embarrassing cessation of vital work relates to the ownership of the lease of land housing an electrical substation after Boro’s architects drew up plans to put a fire resistant chamber around the electrical generator, transmission and distribution system.

The plans had been approved by the council’s building control department and fire officer, but UK Power Networks informed the frustrated League Two club they hold the lease – which dates back to 1962.

The North Stand. Picture: Danny Loo The North Stand. Picture: Danny Loo

Stevenage FC chairman Phil Wallace said: “We have been in discussions about the stand with UK Power Networks for years.

“Although the lease expired long ago, they believe they should have been consulted by the council while they were determining our planning application, prior to awarding planning consent to us.”

UK Power Networks – which owns and maintain electricity cables and lines across the south east of England as well as maintaining and upgrading power equipment – insist a 21-year lease issued 56 years ago that expired in 1983 still gives them certain rights over the land.

However, successful businessman Wallace – who has a number of interests in the US as well as the UK – has been left shocked by the blunder.

Stevenage FC chairman Phil Wallace speaking about the investment scheme for the North Stand. Picture: Stevenage FC Stevenage FC chairman Phil Wallace speaking about the investment scheme for the North Stand. Picture: Stevenage FC

He added: “We are stunned as the substation is within the footprint of our own lease issued by the council and there is no reference to an under-let mentioned in that.”

Council officers are attempting to establish how this glitch occurred and have assured the club they will act swiftly to resolve it.

The club are hoping a solution can be found quickly as each day the site remains empty has a significant cost – and it could also affect Boro’s League Two fixtures.

Work carried out so far has seen the old North Stand behind the goal levelled and the foundation for the new building completed in the areas not affected. However, there is still a considerable amount of work to do in the early stages of the project – including vital cabling work to ensure the stadium’s safety systems and floodlights are not compromised.

The stand was initially due to be opened around November, but there are real fears the unveiling may not take place until 2019 – costing Boro vital funds.

UK Power Networks told the Comet: “We are liaising with the parties involved and will do our very best to help resolve the design issues for this important site.”

With the first match of the new season due to take place on Saturday, August 4, the quicker this impasse is resolved the quicker Stevenage can attempt to open the stand.

Passionate Boro supporter Owen Rodbard, who bangs the drum in the East Stand during fixtures at the Lamex spoke to the Comet, said: “Hopefully this can be sorted out soon and then we can continue to increase our crowd numbers and push the team on.

“I’m disappointed at the delay, but I thought this process wouldn’t go as smoothly as advertised.”

Supremo Wallace added that he believes there is a good chance of a quick resolution to the work delays.

He added: “If everyone is sensible this legacy from the past can be resolved quickly – we will be doing everything possible to make that happen with the council and UK Power Networks.”

A spokeswoman for Stevenage Borough Council said the authority was working with Stevenage FC to address the matter.

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