THE man in charge of Portsmouth City Council has said Fratton Park is safe from developers – even if Pompey go under.
Chief executive David Williams insisted the council’s Portsmouth Plan protects the stadium as long as there is a ‘reasonable prospect’ of it still being used for sport.
But this was disputed by Tory councillor Steve Wemyss, who has argued in favour of the council investigating how much it would cost to buy the stadium so it can be safeguarded indefinitely.
The disagreement follows a council meeting on Tuesday where the issue was set to be discussed, before an intervention by Pompey’s administrator resulted in the debate being abandoned.
Trevor Birch argued it would not be helpful to split up the club and Fratton Park because it might make potential buyers think twice.
In an email to council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, seen by The News, Mr Williams wrote: ‘It would need to be many years and a significant change in expectations of this city and others of a similar size and history before the city council should consider that a vacant Fratton Park would be incapable of returning to football.
‘We would expect planning applications for a change of use to be refused on the grounds of the future need for a stadium, and for the city council to be able to defend that decision on appeal to the Secretary of State.’
He added: ‘It must be remembered that whilst a phoenix club may start a number of leagues below the Football League, the ability to return to happier times would remain as in the case of AFC Wimbledon.
‘Fratton Park is the best site in the city to do this.’
But Cllr Wemyss said there could be a time when the council could not defend its planning policy for Fratton.
He said: ‘I am not saying Mr Williams is not right about us having a rule preventing development, but there still has to be a time limit.
‘If people are using it as a football stadium it is protected and I have no issue with that policy, it is as strong as it could be.
‘But that is still insufficient to protect Fratton Park indefinitely – and that is the view of the planning officer I spoke to.’
Meanwhile at a meeting of the Pompey Supporters Trust, it moved a step closer to pursuing a community buy-out when its members voted to introduce Community Shares, which could potentially help strengthen their position to buy the club.