MEDWAY COUNClL CABINET 27 JANUARY 2004 TEMPLE WATERFRONT – DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS
Portfolio holder: Report from: Author: Councilor Rodney Chambers, Leader Richard Simmons, Development and Environment Colin Lovell, Regeneration and Environmental Projects Manager
Summary This report summarises the progress on the preparation of a development brief for Temple Waterfront and discussions with landowners and Gillingham Football Club (GFC) concerning development options for the site. It recommends a strategy for dealing with the Council‟s land holding and responding to proposals from GFC. Decision issues Development of Temple Waterfront in accordance with a councilapproved development brief for mixed-use development would be consistent with the Council‟s policy framework which in this instance is the Local Plan. However, the Local Plan does state that Temple Marsh may be suitable for a multi-purpose sports arena/stadium subject to the resolution of multi-modal access, parking, design and landscaping considerations. At this stage, cabinet needs to decide how as a landowner it responds to GFC‟s proposals for the development of a new stadium on the site. . It also needs to consider whether the Council is prepared to jointly fund (with GFC) a new feasibility study into the proposals outlined by the football club. Planning issues would be dealt with in a development brief for the site that would be approved as supplementary planning guidance.
Background Temple Waterfront (often known as Temple Marsh) is the area north of Medway Valley Park leisure complex and forms the southern part of the Strood Waterfront Action Area in the Local Plan (see plan 1). It is 21 hectares (52 acres) in size. The local plan policy supports housing and employment uses, appropriate community facilities, a new station on the Medway Valley line and a riverside walk. Subject to resolution of transport, parking and landscape issues, the „area around Temple Marsh may be an appropriate location for a multi-purpose stadium.‟ Temple Waterfront is in three parcels (see plan 1): - An area of open space on the edge of the Medway owned by the Council that was previously a land-fill site; - The vacant site of a former cement works accessed from Roman Way on which soil has been tipped; - A timber mill and area of ancillary storage together with a variety of industrial and waste-processing uses.
When Medway Valley Park was developed in the mid-1990‟s a section 106 agreement was signed that gives the council the right to access its land at Temple Marsh from Roman Way across the former cement works . In 2001 Drivers Jonas and Strategic Leisure completed a study funded by the council and Gillingham Football Club into suitable locations for a new stadium that would replace its established ground at Priestfield; this concluded that Temple Marsh (Waterfront) was the best option. The report also considered how a stadium might be funded and operated including through supporting development. Officers asked the club to investigate ways in which funding could be raised but nothing further was heard from the club for several months. In 2002, the owners of the former cement works approached officers with a proposal to develop their land-holding in conjunction with the two other land owners. A series of meetings began with officers with the aim of producing a development brief for the site that would establish how it should be developed for business, residential and open space uses, identify the constraints and the infrastructure required. Following consultation this would be approved as supplementary planning guidance. The council would then be able to decide how it wishes to participate in any development as landowner. The owners and their consultants with the tacit support of the other owners led this work. The timber company wish to continue in business either at Temple Marsh or in the Medway area but in either case, on a smaller site than they currently own. Site investigations were commenced to establish the degree of contamination and flood protection that would be required. The masterplan proposes approximately 500 houses and
18,000 square metres of employment space and a primary school and open space on the riverfront. 3.5 In the autumn of 2002, reports began to appear in the local press in which the football club‟s chairman was quoted as stating that the council was obstructing plans for a new stadium for the club at Temple Marsh. Officers reported to the Medway Waterfront Group and it was agreed that the leader should meet the football club chairman to establish the club‟s aspirations; a report would then be considered by cabinet that would enable the council‟s position to be made clear. A series of meetings were held last year between the leader and officers and the chairman of the club, at which he shared his proposals for the stadium and supporting development. The chairman has also met with the other landowners with the same purpose. On 25 November last year, the chairman presented his proposals to council members. The club‟s architect made a second presentation to a second meeting on December 11. The plans are very ambitious showing a stadium with a retractable pitch and apartments constructed as an integral part of the stadium. Ancillary uses include an hotel with banqueting facilities and a casino on one side of the stadium. Other development on the site would include light industry, indoor bowling and other leisure and residential development comprising a mix of apartments and town housing, some of which would be „affordable‟. A restaurant, café, pub and doctor‟s surgery with housing for the elderly would be developed around a „ village green‟. A primary school and nursery is proposed. Around 700 homes in total and an estimated 3000 jobs (2500 in the casino) are forecast. All the land would be developed and it may be possible for the timber operation to continue as part of the scheme. The chairman has said that he had discussions with a number of development partners on the proposals including a casino operator. As an integral part of the proposals, the Priestfield site in Gillingham including the new banqueting and, conference centre and Blues Rock Café would be developed for housing (around 200 units). Among the issues that members raised in questions at the presentations were: a) Whether the other two landowners would support the proposals. b) Concerns about traffic generation, the impact on the A228 and the need for a second access. c) Noise nuisance for the residents of Borstal and Cuxton Road. d) Financial feasibility. e) The extent of enabling development required and whether this requires the participation of all the landowners. f) The Importance of a railway station and other public transport initiatives.
g) Ground contamination (former refuse tip) and stability. h) Community benefits of the two schemes. i) Whether the Football League would have to approve the relocation. j) Ecological and geo-environmental issues. k) Flooding. l) Amenity of the new residential development. 3.10 Officers have undertaken a critique of the football club‟s proposals and are concerned that insufficient information has been submitted, in accordance with the requirements of the local plan, to enable a balanced judgement to be made on the planning merits of the proposal. There is particular concern regarding: a) The overall concept of combining the development of a major sports stadium with housing given the potential impact of noise, light, traffic and parking on the amenity of existing and future residents particularly as this type of development has never been carried out before. b) The absence of a transport study, which might confirm the feasibility of a new railway station, identify the impact of traffic on the surrounding area including the A228 and Strood town centre, and the potential for providing a new "relief" road through the site via a new railway crossing to the north. c) The lack of a park and ride scheme including sufficient off-site car parking and bus services to serve a major stadium that has very limited on-site parking. d) The need for a sequential test for ancillary uses (e.g. hotel, casino), to demonstrate that they cannot be more appropriately located in or adjacent to a town centre. e) Concern over geo-technical, hydrological and ecological issues that have been investigated in the work undertaken by consultants as part of the work on the development brief; f) The viability of the proposals. 3.11 Generally the development of football stadia alone is not financially viable. Elsewhere (e.g. Reading, Bolton and Derby) „enabling development‟ has subsidised the development of the stadium. The Way Forward The landowners‟ proposals, on which good progress was being made until autumn 2002, would provide much needed quality employment land and housing on a brown field site. The future needs of the timber company could be met on the site or through voluntary relocation. The owners of the former cement works have been very frustrated that its development has been delayed while the council has given the football club the opportunity to develop and present its proposals to the other landowners.
However, the site has been identified as the best location of those examined for the relocation of the football club and the local plan provides in-principle support. GFC‟s chairman believes the club has no long-term future at Priestfield. Nevertheless, there are major concerns about the funding and deliverability of such an ambitious facility on such a difficult site as Temple Marsh notwithstanding the proposed enabling development. Should the council decide to support the proposals without a confirmed and robust funding mechanism, the development of one of Medway‟s strategic development sites may remain undeveloped for some time. A further study to examine the viability of the GFC proposals would help to clarify whether the proposals are viable without subsidy. However, the football club‟s proposals would only be implemented if all three landowners agreed and from the discussions to date this seems unlikely. If their principal objective in delivering a quality development on its site is to maximise the return (a reasonable assumption), they are unlikely to support the GFC proposals; these are likely to be less profitable and far riskier than their own more traditional housing and employment scheme. There are various issues for Cabinet to consider: Does the council support the principle of a new stadium for GFC being subsidised via the council investing its land into the project, possibly at substantially less than market value? Does the council support the GFC proposals for Temple Waterfront? Does the council want to co-fund the new feasibility study? How should the council respond to GFC‟s current proposals?
5. . 5.1
Financial and Legal Implications The initial work undertaken so far by the cement works owners and their consultants suggests that a viable development yielding a return to the landowners could be implemented on this site. Insufficient information has been supplied to determine whether the same conclusion applies to the GFC proposals. It is therefore not as attractive financially to the Council as the other option. There is no case therefore for the Council to invest in a feasibility study. There are no immediate legal implications. However, if the council land is disposed of at any future point, the duty to achieve best consideration under section 123 Local Government Act 1972 or secure the consent of the Secretary of State will apply.
Recommendations The request to fund a feasibility study into the football club‟s proposals for Temple Marsh be declined. In view of the uncertainty over the support of the landowners, and over the feasibility and viability of the proposals, GFC be given until 30 April this year to demonstrate to the Council‟s satisfaction that the problems in paragraph 3.9 and 3.10 can be resolved. If GFC fail to do this, the council would then be justified in proceeding with the regeneration of Temple Marsh in conjunction with the other landowners. Suggested reasons for decision The prospect of delivering a new stadium on Temple Marsh and the ancillary and enabling facilities that would be required appears very slim, particularly without the support of all landowners. Establishing whether a scheme is deliverable would cause delay with no guarantee that a positive outcome would result and hold back the development of one of Medway‟s strategic development site. The council recognises the inadequacy of GFC‟s current location at Priestfield and will work with the club to identify a suitable site where a new stadium/arena could be developed.
Lead officer contact Colin Lovell, Regeneration and Environmental Projects Manager, Compass Centre, 01634 331148, email@example.com Background Papers: Medway Local Plan 30 September 1999 “Stadium Development – Feasibility Study – Temple Marsh, Strood Waterfront”