New stadium wins council support

Date published: 18 March 2010

LATICS’ new £20million stadium has moved a step closer after Oldham Council officially backed controversial plans for the 12,000-seater development in Failsworth.

Council chiefs agreed to push forward with a land deal despite pleas from concerned residents.

The council set out its tactics after the Charity Commission failed to rule whether Lower Failsworth Memorial Park — part of the proposed 30 acre site off Broadway — has charitable trust status which could make things difficult for the League One club.

The commission suggested going to the High Court to resolve the issue. But a barrister advised that the court would decide if the land was a trust.

Instead, councillors have decided to cut out this costly and time-consuming step and will ask the commission to deem the land to the north of the Lancaster Club as a trust.

Alternative sites will then be identified for a swap, with charitable status transferred to the new site approved by the commission.

Two residents’ organisations last night urged the Cabinet committee to ditch the plan, claiming it contravened local policies and national guidelines.

Warren Bates, from Failsworth Residents’ Action Group, said: “This is pubic land dedicated to those 240 who lost their lives in the Great War.”

Oldham’s opposition Labour councillor Dave Hibbert also slammed the Liberal Democrat administration for shelving his party’s original plan for a new stadium on Clayton playing fields.

He branded the current project a dog’s breakfast which should never have been allowed to go ahead, but added: “We support the football club and recognise the necessity for modern facilities.”

Latics unveiled plans to move to Failsworth in July in a move which divided fans. Some are still opposed to a stadium with a Manchester postcode and would rather see the redevelopment of the crumbling, and now three-sided, Boundary Park.

A project team will be set up to identify possible land swap sites and will involve local councillors and the community.

But the new site does not have to be the same size as the 8.62 acres of trust land which would be gobbled up by Latics. This is because transferring charitable status is linked to value rather than size.

Councillor Mohib Uddin, Cabinet member for regeneration, said the development would bring jobs and significant investment.

He added: “The leaders of all three parties have met with Oldham Athletic and officers and a way forward has been agreed in terms of working together.”

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