New stadium update

Thu 04 Feb 2016

More information about issues to do with stadium move

Chief Executive Erik Samuelson updated us in Saturday’s match day programme about the issues connected with our planning application for a new stadium back in Plough Lane.

This article is reproduced in full below and further down the page Erik also mentions that plans at the club are already being put in place for 2016/17.

There’s a lot going on at the moment, and it’s time to update you on some of the major issues we are dealing with.

First and foremost in my mind is the next stage of the planning application. Merton Council voted unanimously in favour of the application, but for it to become a formal “Decision” we need sign-off by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and an agreed Section 106 document. (In a Section 106 agreement, the developer commits to various obligations relating to the development, for example the amount of affordable housing and financial contributions to provide infrastructure work on pavements, transport enhancements, etc.)

When I last updated you, I said we were hopeful that the viability statement, which is an essential component of the documentation that the GLA requires, would be submitted by the end of December. Unfortunately it has been delayed, and the aim now is to submit it in the next couple of weeks. I see nothing sinister in the delay – it’s simply a reflection of the complexity of the application. Once the GLA has all the documentation, they are likely to take up to three weeks to come to their conclusions on the application, so I don’t expect to hear for a little while yet.

Meanwhile, detailed design work for the stadium continues, and we are hoping to present the results to the Dons Trust Board meeting next month. The Plough Lane site is small, and so many of the key design issues are determined by the resulting constraints, but we are looking for a way to give fans a say in how the stadium is “dressed”, i.e. how it will look. We will get back to you about how we propose to do that.

As you know, a key element of the financing of the stadium is the sale of Kingsmeadow to Chelsea FC. The contract is close to being finalised, and I am hopeful that it will be signed in February. To remind you, the sale will only go ahead once a number of “conditions precedent” are met, and until that happens the stadium remains in our ownership. Although the principle of the deal is straightforward, the detail is complex, and getting to this stage has been a long process. Nevertheless, all the negotiations have been carried out in a practical and constructive way, and we are getting close to a final agreement.

We continue to have discussions with the Kingstonian chairmen, and the Dons Trust Board is also engaging with representatives of K’s supporters, so as to consult as widely as possible on the sale of the stadium. We are also receiving tax advice on the status of the profit we expect to make on the sale of Kingsmeadow and making sure that the Football League is fully up to speed with our plans.

On the financing side, we are in discussions with a bank about the balance of the finance we need to build the stadium. At the same time we are looking at the practicalities of a Community Share issue, and developing plans so that when we want to launch it everything will be in place. And we are poised to launch the offer for the naming rights for the new stadium, once the GLA’s agreement to the application has been confirmed.

When there are so many things going on it can be easy to lose sight of the continuing business – and we are determined not to let that happen. So “business as usual” has included discussions with Neal about the funds available to him if he feels he can strengthen the squad. To underpin that, a forecast is close to completion to project our financial results to the end of June (our year end), taking account of the “actuals” to the end of December. And as soon as the forecast is completed we will be starting to develop the 2016/17 budget. Finally, there are a couple of projects getting close to completion on proposed changes to how we use social media (you may well have noticed increasing activity in that area lately) and to refresh the Dons Draw.

In short, we are busy. But these are exciting times – and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

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