Thursday, 3 April 2008

Darlo get go-ahead for expansion

Despite the best efforts of some unambitious, unimaginative Conservative councillors, Darlington Football Club was given planning permission yesterday for a major expansion of facilities around the Darlington Arena. And quite right too!

The new sporting, leisure and hotel facilities will benefit the town. We should also enjoy having a successful football club and hopefully this scheme will generate enough income to support it. Take a look at the best club in the country - Reading FC. Just like Darlo, we moved to a brand new purpose built 25,000 seater out-of-town stadium a few years ago. But John Madejski had the foresight to surround the stadium with training, leisure and hotel facilities, which is what George Houghton wants to do. It paid off for Reading and I'm sure it will be good for Darlington too - the town as well as the club.

According to the Echo, some Tories objected because the football club hadn't produced a viable business plan and because there were other hotels in town. Now, as far as I know, neither of these are legitimate grounds for refusing planning permission, so what were the Tories playing at? It would be kind to suggest they were simply making a political gesture. It is more likely that this is a classic case where Nimbyism meets lack of ambition and a reluctance to embrace dynamic change.
Clearly, if the club starts to attract more fans, there will have to be improvements to access to the ground. In Reading there is a constant stream of cheap buses to and from the ground from various pick-up points on match days and a park and ride scheme linked by buses to the ground. Only the idiots (those who like to miss the last ten minutes of a game so they can avoid the traffic) travel to the ground by car. Darlington will have to do some work on this, especially if they get promotion this season.

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