Gloucester City's proposed plans for a new stadium on the brink of collapse
AMBITIOUS plans for Gloucester City's new £5 million community stadium are on the brink of collapse – six months after they were minded for approval by the city council.
Frustrated by a lack of progress with the plans for a new stadium on the site of the old Meadow Park ground, club bosses are now close to pulling the plug on the project.
Club owner Eamonn McGurk has spent 16 years and more than a £1 million in his efforts to build the Tigers a new home, but admits that he and the club may be forced to reconsider their options.
Plans for the new development at Meadow Park – consisting of a stadium, flood defences and commercial land – went before Gloucester City Council planners in September last year.
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They were only 'minded for approval' while further flood modelling work was carried out – effectively leaving the club in a state of impasse.
And after being hindered by further problems since then, McGurk – who founded and owns Gloucester-based construction company Keyway – has taken the decision to effectively call a halt to proceedings while the club consider the best way forward.
"We're at a stage at present where the pieces aren't lined up so we can progress," McGurk said.
"And rather than go to countless meeting after meeting we're going to park up and reconsider things.
"We will have a meeting within the club on Wednesday were we will discuss things in great detail. We were due to meet with the council today but we have cancelled that.
"We feel we have put in three years of hard work, lots of meetings, committee groups and so on and we were hoping that we would get planning permission certain to conditions.
"We didn't get that and now our planning consultant is struggling, others are struggling and some of our key partners in trying to get this to happen are losing a bit of patience.
"Land ownerships around the site are changing and that makes it difficult to keep on track with something that was agreed four years ago.
"We spent a lot of money – our own money, not the football club's money – and we have to re-evaluate that every so often."
McGurk's plans for Meadow Park pre-date the epic 2007 flooding that rendered the ground unusable and uninsurable.
He helped pick up the club from the disastrous Keith Gardner era at the turn of the Millennium, wiping out the large part of the historic debt and enabling the club to find its feet again.
He felt then, and still does now, that for the club to fulfil its potential a new community stadium within the city boundaries is imperative.
And as part of this new review, McGurk said that the club would once again explore all options – including a move away from the Meadow Park site it has called home since 1986.
"This has been something that I've been trying to do for 16 years," he said.
"For others it's only since 2007 but I've always had the view that the new stadium there was imperative.
"When you are trying to expand a club a new stadium was crucial. I wanted a one-stop solution and I would have loved to have had that.
"It's not the end of the road. We are just looking to re-evaluate our options.
"Our personal spend in terms of our company is well in excess of £1million now in terms of sponsorship and so on over that 16 years.
"And at the last count it was well over £200,000 in this particular planning application.
"The club isn't a profit-making entity. It just about balances the books every year and any shortfall is made up from key people every year, me being one of them .
"All options are open now. My personal option is the site in Hempsted and until something comes along to change that it will always be Hempsted.
"We're not going to abandon it. We are just revisiting what we want to do and we want to bring the club home.
"If there is some joined-up thinking and everyone has the same desire then it will happen. But at this present moment I have genuine fears.
"My commitment is my commitment. But I can't speak for everyone else. A lot of people want to bring Gloucester City home and I am just one of them.
"I am only just one person in that piece. My brother Brian has worked tirelessly, Paul Duncliffe (planning consultant) has worked tirelessly and the supporters trust of the football club has worked tirelessly.
"I understand that politicians both locally and in government have worked hard as well but at the moment it has not been enough.
"And because of that it's time to re-evaluate."