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How new stadium plans are boosting housing provision

For decades in the 20th century football clubs would remain at their home stadiums year after year, often playing in increasingly ramshackle stadiums with poor spectator facilities and little money to improve them as crowds declined.

This meant that in 1988 when Scunthorpe United moved from the Old Show Ground - which thirty years earlier had actually been the pioneer in Britain of the cantilever roof now seen on modern stands - it was the first time in decades a club has moved. However, with disasters like the 1985 Bradford Fire and the 1989 Hillsborough stadium crush, changes were on the way. The latter tragedy led to grounds in the top two divisions becoming all-seater, and this reduced many grounds' capacities, prompting the start of a new era of stadium moves.

While much of the focus has been on the benefits to the clubs of such investment - more seats means more revenue, and extra elements such as private boxes and non-matchday facilities like conferencing adding more income - the developments have often had knock-on effects on housing provision.

In many cases, this has been because when a club has moved to a new venue - often out on the edge of town - the old ground has been redeveloped with new homes, providing plenty of work for insulation fitters and those fitting waterproofing to cellars and showers, while also increasing the supply of new housing.

Examples of this are numerous, with recent cases including the development of West Ham United's old Upton Park stadium for housing after the club moved to the Olympic Stadium for the current season. However, new projects are also often associated with the construction of new housing as part of a wider mixed-use development of which a stadium is just the centrepiece.  

This week saw Southend United become the latest club to seek planning permission for such a project. It wants to move from its Roots Hall home near the town centre for a new edge-of-town ground at Fossett's Farm. As well as providing a 21,000-capacity football venue, the project will also feature a cinema, shops, conference facilities and new apartments.

Not only will the latter provide new homes, but so will the Roots Hall site. Southend United chairman Ron Martin told the club's annual general meeting previous plans to build a supermarket on part of the site are no longer in the blueprint. He explained: "The plans are significantly different. We do not have Sainsbury’s. All supermarkets stopped building megastores probably two-and-a-half years ago."

As a result, the Roots Hall site will be entirely developed with housing.

This may be a very welcome development in the heart of the town. Roots Hall is in the Prittlewell council ward, just outside the boundaries of Westborough ward - the most densely populated ward in the east of England with 118 residents per hectare according to the last census. That suggests finding space to build new homes in the middle of the town is invaluable, not least because Roots Hall is within walking distance of two railway stations.

If Southend get planning permission the new project could be completed by Christmas 2018.  

Other clubs planning stadium moves include Everton, who recently managed to secure a site in the docklands after a series of false starts over possible new venus. These included the Albert Dock, an out-of-town site in Kirkby and, most recently, Walton Park.

Some clubs have opted to renovate their existing stadiums, with Sheffield united's redevelopment including building new apartments on one corner of Bramhall Lane. North London's leading club Tottenham Hotspur have chosen a different method, with a new stadium overlapping the footprint of their existing White Hart Lane home, a project that will see hundreds of new apartments built on the site.


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