The latest from our Chief Executive about move back to Plough Lane
Erik Samuelson has reassured supporters that the lack of recent news on the stadium front does not indicate further delays, and that there is a lot going on behind the scenes to keep the project on track.
Erik’s update was first published in Saturday’s match day programme and for those who may have missed it, you can read it in full below.
I’m very much aware that delays to the progress of our new stadium can cause fans to be nervous and concerned, so I felt it was time for an update. First, we still await the result of Historic England’s review of the site, with a view to listing the current stadium. It is over five weeks now since the consultation period ended, so we assume we will hear soon, but no firm date has been announced for a decision by the Secretary of State.
At the moment, waiting for that decision isn’t causing us any extra delay as we are still working on finalising the Section 106 agreement, the document that sets out the obligations of the various parties involved in the development – Galliard, Merton and us. That agreement is underpinned by a series of other legal documents. The first is the Conditions. These set out a range of issues such as the time limit for the stadium to be completed, processes for agreeing the materials to be used, opening hours, noise levels and drainage. There are 78 conditions in all, and these are pretty much agreed.
The next document is the Construction Management Plan. This sets out issues such as management of the site, traffic control for lorries coming in and out of the site, and public safety. This too is close to agreement.
We also have a Phasing Plan. Its purpose is to set out the order in which the site will be developed. For example, if all goes to plan, the stadium will open before all the apartments are complete, so it is essential that the main pedestrian street is usable when we are ready to open. This is because the street runs through the middle of the site and is a key access route for the east stand; if we can’t use this street, then we can’t use that stand. This plan is also close to agreement.
Finally, there is the Development Agreement. This sets out a wide range of commercial and practical issues relating to the project. They include access rights across the site; how and when Galliard’s contribution towards the cost of construction will be made; warranties about when parts of the site will be completed, to ensure that neither party delays the other; an agreement on how the costs of a survey and possible implementation of a controlled parking zone will apply for Merton and the adjacent borough of Wandsworth; and issues relating to the construction of a crèche inside the stadium (a requirement from the GLA).
The Development Agreement is about 60 pages long. It is complex, and taking far longer to pin down than we had expected. However, there don’t appear to be any “show-stoppers”, so it’s a case of working through it and making sure that it meets both parties’ needs. And when it is done, Merton need to be confident that it integrates appropriately into the overriding Section 106 agreement. We will get there but it is taking time, I’m afraid.
There has been one other significant change in how we are going about things. All our plans depend on us having a good understanding of the construction costs. To make sure of this, we have started a two- stage tender process for constructing the stadium. The first part has been to ask three companies to give estimates of the cost of building the stadium using the plans as they currently exist. From these bids we will select one tenderer to work with us to develop the design in sufficient detail to give us a firm fixed price for the stadium.
This process is under way, and we met the three companies last week so that they could present their credentials and ask us detailed questions about the design. By the end of this month we will have received their bids, and we will select our partner for building the stadium. The benefit of this approach is that it will give us much greater certainty than before about what the stadium will cost and our finance requirements.
Hopefully, this summary will have eased any concerns you may have had. Obviously we are frustrated that things aren’t progressing as quickly as we would like, but the stadium is still on track to open for the start of 2019/20 – and that is the key target.