FOREST Green Rovers FC could build a new 5,000-seater stadium at Javelin Park near Stonehouse if controversial plans for a waste incinerator at the site were to fall through, the club’s chairman has said.
In an exclusive interview with the SNJ earlier this week, Ecotricity founder Dale Vince confirmed rumours that the club were eyeing Javelin Park as a potential site for a new ground and voiced his belief that it would be a ‘far more popular’ project than the £500 million incinerator scheme, which has aroused strong opposition from the local community.
The green energy tycoon, who took over the reins at Forest Green Rovers in 2010, revealed that Javelin Park was one of several sites under serious consideration and that the club were initially hoping to build a 5,000 capacity stadium, with scope to expand up to 10,000 seats.
Mr Vince said: “We are considering Javelin Park as a possible location. We are looking at it as an idea and we know the appeal decision is coming at some point in the next few weeks.
“It is early days but I am happy to confirm rumours of our interest. In an ideal world for a lot of people in Stroud the incinerator appeal will be rejected and that's whether you're a football fan or not.
“I think Javelin Park would be better off without an incinerator and I think a new football ground would probably make for a far more popular use.”
News of Mr Vince’s interest in the site was immediately welcomed by protesters from the anti-incineration group GlosVAIN.
Diana Shirley, a member of the group, said: "As the case against an incinerator at Javelin Park is rapidly growing the secretary of state, Eric Pickles, should have no hesitation in refusing UBB's planning permission appeal.
“A stadium at Javelin Park is a fantastic idea, it would not only get Gloucestershire County Council off the hook from buying a site that was unsuitable for an incinerator but it would also provide the community with a healthier and useful facility."
Located next to Blooms Garden Centre near junction 12 of the M5 just outside of Haresfield, Javelin Park is currently owned by several parties.
Half of the former airfield belongs to Graftongate Developments and Korine Property Partners, who jointly acquired the whole site for around £6.9 million in 2006, before selling roughly half of it to the county council for £7.4 million in January 2009.
GCC is believed to have paid over the odds for its half of the industrial park because it desperately needed a site in order to be able to secure £92 million worth of PFI funding from central government for the incinerator project.
However, that funding was subsequently withdrawn in October 2010 because DEFRA determined that the UK already had sufficient incinerator capacity.
GlosVAIN protesters believe that the decision by GCC to push ahead with the incinerator project at that point in time was motivated by a desire to spare the authority any embarrassment over the inflated price it had paid for the site.
While the authority was able to boast of having secured £92 million worth of PFI credits, an extra few million pounds expenditure on the site could be easily justified and was relatively uncontroversial.
But with the loss of PFI funding questions were inevitably going to be raised about why GCC had paid £7.4 million for half of Javelin Park when the whole site had been on the market for £6.9 million just a couple of years earlier.
It is for this reason that GlosVAIN believe Mr Vince and Forest Green Rovers could get GCC ‘off the hook’ by purchasing the site.
Were Eric Pickles to turn down Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s appeal on September 17, offloading the site to Mr Vince may represent an attractive option for GCC.
Although, the green energy entrepreneur is unlikely to pay anything like the £7.4 million GCC shelled out for the site, he would be offering GCC a get out of jail card by giving the authority an opportunity to cut its losses.
For his part, Mr Vince has not ruled out siting a new stadium on the other half of Javelin Park, but he did say it would not be ‘ideal’ if the incinerator was given the go ahead next door.
The Ecotricity boss has been on record for some time as being against the waste burner project, but in his interview with the SNJ he outlined his objections in more detail.
“We are against waste incineration as a company,” he said. “We have to get away from burning finite resources.
“The incinerator would disincentivise all of the things we need to do - like recycle more and produce less waste as the council will be compelled to feed it with rubbish for the next 25 years.”
Last year the SNJ obtained a council report under freedom of information laws, which indicated that more than two thirds of the waste earmarked for the Javelin Park incinerator was likely to be recyclable, re-usable or compostable.
Commenting on Mr Vince’s interest in the Javelin Park site Jo Walker, director at GCC, said: “The land was designated for waste disposal use in 2004. We are not at a stage where we would review alternative uses for the site as we’re still awaiting the secretary of state to make his decision on our plans.
“We have invested a huge amount of time and effort over the past five years to help secure a safe, clean and environmentally friendly way to dispose of our rubbish that can’t readily be recycled. That’s exactly what this facility at Javelin Park would provide.”