Islington Tribune
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER
Published: 6 March 2009

Arsenal’s Ken Friar, left, with architect Piers Gough
Arsenal’s towering vision triumphs

Planners back final piece of £390m stadium project, but throw out street coach parking

THE final part of Arsenal’s £390million Emirate Stadium scheme – the Queensland Road development – was approved after a heated three-hour debate on Tuesday.
For the first time, the club’s managing director, Ken Friar, revealed how the 1,600 square metre community sports centre included in the development will operate.
The centre – offered by Arsenal at the last minute following a long campaign by resident Ian Shacklock – will provide up to 52 hours a week of community use, most of it free.
The development at Queensland Road, currently a derelict site next to the stadium, comprises 516 homes – half of them affordable – in five towers of between 10 and 15 floors. A 1,140 square metre commercial development will house small firms, shops and restaurants, with space for up to 179 cars.
However, Islington Council’s east area committee, chaired by Lib Dem deputy mayor Councillor Anna Berent, threw out a controversial plan to allow match-day coaches to park in side streets around the stadium.
Arsenal were told that instead of having coaches park in residential Drayton Park and Hornsey Street, they should look at using, at least temporarily, Queensland Road itself and the Sobell Centre.
Veteran campaigner Chris Eisen reminded the committee that under the original 2002 plan the 40 away fans’ coaches would have been parked inside the stadium itself. This scheme was abandoned after police warned it could make the stadium a terrorist target.
“Arsenal chose to locate its new football stadium in Ashburton Grove,” she said. “It takes financial benefits from the relocation and therefore must be responsible for finding a permanent coach parking solution.”
Labour councillor Phil Kelly, a member of the planning committee, suggested that, with proper police resources, Finsbury Park would make a useful coach park. “It’s the best we’ve got,” he added.
But resident Adam Caplin described how his car was one of 40 vehicles damaged when police allowed coaches to drop off away fans at Finsbury Park during the FA Cup tie against Cardiff.
Mr Caplin added: “There was a big crowd that walked to the stadium doing a lot of damage en route. They caused at least £200 worth of damage to my Honda Civic.”
Labour councillor Theresa Debono favoured Queensland Road as a permanent coach parking site. “It’s back to the drawing board for Arsenal on the coach issue,” she said. “They’ll have to look again at the site and provide enough space for the coaches.”
Green councillor Katie Dawson suggested a park-and-ride solution, with away fans ferried to the stadium from somewhere along the M25.
Chief Inspector Richard Woolford said police could be in favour of Queensland Road as a coach park, provided emergency access was not blocked. He added that police would be opposed to Finsbury Park because of previous incidents of disorder and the difficulty of handling such a large crowd.
As for reconsidering the original plan to allow coaches to park inside the stadium, Mr Woolford said: “We are categorically opposed to this. The threat of terrorism in the UK is severe. It is not fictional and nor is it a Hollywood movie, as has been suggested.”
The proposed Queensland Road towers came under attack from Roger Wright, of Highbury Community Association. He described the design by leading architect Piers Gough as “mundane, pedestrian and similar to many ‘clone’ developments across London”.
He added: “It in no way echoes or complements the stadium and has no interesting design features.” Mr Gough, who was sitting in the audience next to Mr Friar, did not respond.
Cllr Dawson, the only committee member who voted against the scheme, said she was delighted with the football scheme but described it as too tall, too big and too dense. “People aren’t battery hens. There is virtually no green space,” she said.
Arsenal supporter Emma Shepherd, who lives locally, urged the committee to support the development. “It’s got everything going for it, including social housing and the excellent community sports centre for the kids,” she said. “I remember playing at the JVC Centre at the old Highbury ground.”
Mr Friar said the new sports centre would have double the amount of free community use offered by the old JVC Centre. “We have produced a mixed and hopefully viable scheme that should please most people,” he added.
“As for coach parking, we will obviously have to look at it again. However, we believe we have already come up with the best available options.”

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions