Borough Council block Maidstone United stadium extension plans
MAIDSTONE UNITED’S owners are having to revise plans to develop the west side of their stadium after Maidstone Borough Council refused to sell a narrow strip of scrub land to the club.
The strip, which is just two meters wide, is landlocked between the stadium and a path leading to Whatman Park. It formed part of the project to increase the stadium capacity up to the 5,000 required by the Football League.
In a statement published on www.maidstoneunited.co.uk, club co-owner Terry Casey, said: “This is a big disappointment as we have been in discussion and negotiation with the council for almost a year. It means we will have to produce yet more drawings and calculations and it may jeopardise our application to be allowed to compete in the play-offs and ultimately to be eligible to join the Football League.
“The football club went to great lengths to offer a fair market price but Maidstone Borough Council, despite agreeing the land is surplus to requirements, insisted that they would only offer a lease agreement, as they deemed the strip to be ‘strategic’ and wanted to retain control.
“We explained at length and in detail that the Stadium site is already saddled with numerous legal charges, covenants, easements, wayleaves and clawbacks. Each time we want to secure a grant or modify the use the legal and administrative costs are prohibitive.
“If we were to agree to a lease we would always be at the mercy of the council and it would make it impossible to raise financing for the future. We don’t feel that this is a fair and reasonable position for the club to be put into. It is deeply disappointing in terms of trust and support that the officers said they disagreed with our arguments.
“Regrettably it appears, yet again, that Maidstone Borough Council does not understand or appreciate what Maidstone United Football Club means to the town. We urge them to reconsider and are lobbying for the freehold sale option to be given due consideration.”
The stadium at James Whatman Way opened in 2012 at a cost of £2.8 million. Further developments, made necessary after three promotions in four years, have seen the owners invest more than £5 million in Kent’s county town.
One of the most popular leisure attractions in Maidstone, the stadium is open seven days a week and welcomes thousands of people every month. Attendances for home games alone have risen year-on-year, with the club the fifth best-supported in the Vanarama National League.
Cllr David Pickett, Chairman of the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee at Maidstone Borough Council said in a statement: “We are supportive of Maidstone United’s expansion plans however there is nothing in the Council’s proposed course of action that prevents the club from pursuing further development. The only issue is that the land the football club plans to use has been identified as strategic due to its location near the river and towpath.
“The Council has a Disposal of Land Policy to protect its assets and the security of land and we are following this policy. A report was brought to committee on the 31 October and a majority vote was made by councillors to uphold the recommendation to offer the land under a 99-year lease agreement.”
In response to the Council’s statement, football club co-owner Oliver Ash posted on Twitter:
“Truth is we did explain in great detail why a lease contract would be too costly, restrictive and complicated to reasonably accept but you didn't want to believe, trust or, ultimately, support us. It is very disappointing for club and fans...”
On the pitch, Maidstone United are in fifth-place in the Vanarama National League table with 29 points from 17 games. They are only four points adrift of league leaders Dover Athletic.
Jay Saunders’ side travel to second-from-bottom side Torquay United on Saturday.
Visit Maidstone United’s website: www.maidstoneunited.co.uk