City of Lincoln Council has granted planning permission for a new community football stadium, which could become the home of Lincoln City Football Club. The stadium will be reached from the city centre via a new link road, which will be constructed from Beevor Street, bridging the railway.
The proposed stadium will be adjacent to a leisure village, but there will be much more besides, with up to 3,200 new homes, a primary school, a hotel and an industrial park. That “Western Growth Corridor” scheme as a whole, if it goes ahead, will obviously play hugely important roles in the futures of the city and of its economy.
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government could have called in the application for scrutiny, which would have delayed the start of construction, but he has decided not to do so. Nevertheless, numerous conditions still have to be complied with before further progress can be made, in order to address fundamental issues such as traffic management, flood risks, etc. In practice, building of the first phase of the development could well be a decade away. The stadium will not be constructed until much later still, as it is planned for Phase 4.
The planning application was made by the owners of the land concerned, namely a company from the Lindum Group, together with City of Lincoln Council itself. It should be emphasised that the application was not made by the Football Club, which does not own any of the land involved. The developers will no doubt at some point seek negotiations with the club, endeavouring to agree terms which will entice it to their new venue. When discussions open, the club will inevitably take into account the other alternative options of staying put and of moving to any different sites which might by then have become available.
It was stressed at the recent Fans Forum that it is now still far too early to consider whether the club should move to a new stadium. If the development does eventually go ahead and if it is then felt that a move might be in the best interests of the club and of the wider community, including the fanbase, then consideration will be given to the possibility.
Stadium relocations require extremely careful thought. Lincoln City FC has moved only once in its entire history: what is now known as the LNER Stadium has been our home for the last 127 years, the club’s first eleven playing seasons having been spent at John O’Gaunts. Many other clubs have moved home (some on numerous occasions) during that period. For some it has been a great success. For others, it has been a disaster. Most have fallen somewhere between those two extremes. It is essential that any decision that the club makes should be the right one.
One of the key objects of the Red Imps Community Trust is to be the democratic and representative voice of supporters of the club. Thanks to its large shareholdings, the Trust is in the very fortunate position of having directors on the boards of both the club and of its holding company. If and when the time comes for a decision to be made on a possible relocation, the Trust will seek the opinions of the supporters. It will then ensure that those opinions are taken in to account when any decision is made. In that way, we will be doing our very best to help the club to come to the right decision.