DETAILED: Why Pompey's North Stand ambition stands at heart of Portsmouth City Council's vision for major Fratton regeneration
Pompey have laid bare their North Stand vision.
For the first time, chief executive Andy Cullen has detailed how the Blues intend to position themselves at the heart of ‘economic regeneration’ earmarked for the city’s Fratton area.
Pompey plans consist of building 500 dwellings, a hotel, and commercial units around Anson Road on club land steadily accumulated since Tornante’s August 2017 arrival as owners.
Cullen revealed to The News that funds generated from the redevelopment will help bankroll the construction of a new North Stand designed to raise Fratton Park capacity to around 27,000.
A rebuilt North Stand has long been perceived as pivotal to the 122-year-old ground’s expansion, housing an additional 7,000 supporters on match-days, while creating essential corporate and conferencing facilities.
Pompey’s ambition is reflected in the Portsmouth Local Plan 2038, a draft document released by Portsmouth City Council in September 2021 for consultation.
And the area around Fratton Park regarded as central to shaping development in the city over the next 15 years.
Cullen told The News: ‘The Portsmouth Local Plan has brought our ambitions to life. Nothing is set in stone, but, if there’s a planning policy in place, everybody knows where they stand and if the council want to do it.
‘The fact it is recognised in the local plan gives you a degree of confidence that it could, one day, become reality.
‘We own a number of units, such as the club shop and Pompey In The Community offices.
‘There are some other buildings towards the back of that which are also owned by the club, but not all of them.
‘You are creating the value from what you own to reinvest into the property, which is the football stadium.
‘So money raised from the development will be used to extend the ground’s capacity.
‘At Stadium MK, retail was built and that enabled the hotel and stadium to be extended. At Norwich, we sold off riverside land which was previously a car park to create residential, which allowed the Jarrold Stand to be built at a cost of £10m.
‘So it is a fairly common vehicle that you use development to invest in your infrastructure.
‘In terms of Fratton Park, the drawings I’ve seen show the hotel separate to a new North Stand, whereas at Stadium MK it is part of the stadium.
‘If there was a hotel built, then I would envisage it would be a separate unit. Any space within the stadium itself (in a new North Stand), will have its own conference and hospitality facilities.
‘At Stadium MK, the hotel is absolutely rammed from Mondays to Fridays. That’s 304 bedrooms occupied at 90 per cent-plus capacity during those times due to events at the stadium and business travel coming into Milton Keynes.
‘We are not far ahead in who would own the hotel at Fratton Park. You would carry out an evaluation in terms of what works best. Is it right for you to own it? Is it right for you to lease it out? Or is it right for somebody else to own it?’.
According to the 304-page Portsmouth Local Plan, the adjacent Pompey Centre has ambition for 250 residential dwellings and additional commercial use, totalling potentially 750 new residential units in the area.
However, in order to achieve Portsmouth City Council planning permission, measures must be taken to combat congestion in light of the anticipated increase in footfall.
Pompey must fulfil ‘safe access and egress of users from the site, including full exploration of the potential for an off-road pedestrian link from Fratton railway station to Fratton Park’.
Also highlighted are ‘enhanced off-road pedestrian and cycle route connectivity between the site and surrounding area’ and ‘the provision of underground parking, in order to decrease ground level parking’.
Cullen added: ‘The project is fine, but it’s vital that conditions are met, in this instance resolving accessibility. The council acknowledge the physical infrastructure for getting fans into the ground is currently insufficient and causes congestion.
‘A bigger capacity at Fratton Park puts pressure on the roads and everything else coming in, which is why you want to encourage people to arrive by train or to use alternative means of transport.
‘This is wider than football, however. I think in the past it has probably been seen as a football/Network Rail issue in terms of a new footbridge – it’s not.
‘This isn’t just about the football club, it’s about this complete area. So you’ll have more people coming backwards and forwards, whether homeowners, people travelling to events, or fans attending football matches.
‘You must improve pedestrian access and have a traffic plan to take the weight off the cars, which have nowhere to park. You need to encourage people to come by train.
‘This requires all parties joining up for the future economic regeneration of the area and also works outside football.’
Pompey have enlisted support from Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, who facilitated a meeting with Network Rail in September.
With Cullen also invited, talks were described as positive and progressive, having previously stalled following the coronavirus outbreak.
Morgan told The News: ‘I’ve always said our football club’s success is our city’s success.
‘To secure the investment we all know that’s needed for Fratton Park and the surrounding area, I will keep banging heads together to get this done.
‘That’s why I was pleased to set up a meeting between the club and Network Rail and I hope the council will now step in and work with PFC to ensure its ambitions are included in future plans for the city.
‘I will continue to do all I can to support the club on this and urge the council to ensure they now do the same.’
Although the club have declined to pinpoint prospective dates for the construction of a new North Stand.
Cullen added: ‘There is no timeframe (for the North Stand), you want to grow it so you are ready for the next stage of football. We need things to be aligned, there are so many factors around the site which must be considered.
‘Our league position will play a part in when the North Stand is built, as will stakeholders, the different people around the site, working with the council, and everybody coming together on this.
‘And there are some encouraging signs in terms of what we can achieve.’
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