Former football stadium set to be turned into houses at last
There are many football clubs that have moved stadiums in the last couple of decades, including Premier League sides ranging from last year's Champions Leicester City to the new Olympic Stadium tenants West Ham United. Next year, newly-promoted Huddersfield Town will be another club hosting top-flight action in a 21st-century home.
Many of these developments have helped produce plenty of new housing, either as part of the new project or through the redevelopment of their old home. For example, while Arsenal's old Highbury Stadium is now a residential development, new apartments have been built around the Emirates Stadium, where the club took up residence in 2006. West Ham's move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has meant their old Upton Park venue being bulldozed to make way for housing, while Manchester City's similar move into the stadium used to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games has been followed by new housing and a school being built at the site of the Maine Road home they had occupied from 1923 to 2003.
However, while so many former stadiums have been redeveloped, one venue has stood out; the Victoria Ground in Stoke. It is 20 years since Stoke City moved out into the modern Britannia Stadium (now the Bet365 Stadium), built on a hill in the south of the city, but since then the Victoria Ground has remained as if in sepia, its old terraces demolished but the pitch Stanley Matthews used to play on still there in the midst of a derelict site by the A500. Despite its location so close to Stoke railway station and a dual carriageway, plan after plan for the redevelopment of the 16-acre site have fallen through - until now.
There had been office schemes proposed in 2004 and 2007 - the latter being shelved because of the recession - and then a housing plan in 2013. However, the proposal by St Modwen now looks set to go ahead, subject to an inspection that includes a report from the Environment Agency over potential flood risks, with the infant River Trent actually running under the Stadium.
Provided it goes ahead, the project will see 130 homes being built in the first phase and 70 more added later, with playing fields and open space included. The homes may need a lot of cellar waterproofing work in case there are floods and the insulation fitters will finally be called into action after years of waiting, but the end of the saga is in sight.
Speaking about the plan, St Modwen spokesman Dave Smith said: "We understand that the Victoria Ground is an important site for both the people of Stoke-on-Trent and the city council.
"Having taken the comments from the public consultation on board, particularly for the second phase of development, we are looking forward to turning our plans for the Victoria Ground site into reality and breathing new life into the community and surrounding area."
No doubt the new streets will feature names commemorating past players or themes, just as Maine Road has a 'Blue Moon Way' and a patch of grass with a plaque marking the old centre spot, while Sunderland's Roker Park is now home to the residents of Midfield Drive and Goalmouth Close and children play in Promotion Close Park. While the embrace of the new has breathed life back into a club now well established in the Premier League, there will no doubt be some tears shed when new homes are finally built at the Victoria Ground. But there will also be happiness for those finding a good place to live, even if they support rivals Port Vale.