My passion for football and architecture have gone hand in hand for as long as I can remember, with football ground architecture always proving a passion. At university my Dissertation was on 'Event Architecture' and I used designing a new stadium for Portsmouth FC at Fratton as my Thesis. Professionally I've worked on a number of sports facilites including new and extended stands at another Football League club.
The recent application by Stuart Robinson's Point Estates (PEL) to develop the land adjacent to Fratton Park is obviously of interest to Pompey fans, so as a member of the football club's working group on this matter, I aim to set out here the background of the deal, what it provides Portsmouth FC and how as a result, Fratton Park could be developed in the future. We'd encourage you to view and support the application (by 13th March), here :- http://po.st/elh
History of this Tesco development:
It should be made clear to start with that the land that surrounds Fratton Park is not owned by Portsmouth FC.
It was purchased by former club owner Milan Mandaric, but was divorced from the club during the tenure of Sasha Gaydamak. He put the company that the land was registered with into administration at the same time PFC was last in administration. The two administrations were independent of each other, Effectively the club was up for sale from one administrator and the land was separately up for sale from another administrator.
The PST explored the option of buying the land, but purchasing the club had to take priority, and with the purchase of the club and Fratton Park running into millions of pounds, the circa £4m asking price for the land, was beyond what was feasible to raise at that time. Therefore the PST engaged with potential purchasers of the surrounding land, to negotiate how any development on the adjoining site could benefit the football club.
Portsmouth City Council (PCC) had already put in place a city wide plan called the Portsmouth Plan, to identify a strategy of how the city should develop in the coming years. The Fratton Park area was included in that document and proposed that the club should stay at Fratton Park and any development on the site should take into account the clubs need to expand. The exact wording is:
"development opportunities of the surrounding land should not prejudice the aspiration of an improved and enlarged football stadium"
For development to take place on the neighbouring land, the developer had to make proposals that enabled this to happen. Therefore Portsmouth FC, PEL and PCC held several meetings to ensure all parties could be satisfied from the planning point of view, from the development point of view, but most importantly from Portsmouth Football Club's point of view.
The proposals to build a Tesco store on the site, which have now been submitted to PCC reflect what PEL and Portsmouth FC consider is a suitable solution and it is now up to PCC's planners to determine that through the planning application process.
What does the Tesco deal give Portsmouth FC?
What the Tesco plans show in favour of the club are:
* The land behind the North Stand given to the football club to be used as a car park. The existing car parking at the ground is not owned by the club and thus it has to pay rent for this facility. This North Stand car park will be owned by PFC and will have space for 250 cars of which 50 spaces will be for blue badge holders.
* A 13m wide strip of land behind the Fratton End stand is also given to the club, land it currently does not own.
* A new club owned access path from the 'McDonalds' roundabout to the rear of the Fratton End.
* The club will also receive a cash sum of money if the development gains planning approval. This money has to be spent on Fratton Park, at the clubs discretion. This discretion can range from small improvements to existing structures up to being part funding for new stands. The exact sum of money cannot be disclosed during the planning process for legal reasons beyond the clubs control.
So what does the club do if Tesco is approved?
The extra land the club would be given if this development gains planning approval will increase the clubs land ownership by almost 50%. Immediately this will see the new PFC owned car park and better access to the ground.
However the real benefit is the room to expand the ground to a larger capacity through new stands with the aim of getting Fratton Park up to at least a 30,000 capacity all seated stadium.
There are two viable options as to how the club can achieve this.
Option 1 - Rotating the stadium:
This resurrects the 2004 plan to rotate the stadium. That proposal saw the ground rotated 90 degrees with new stands on the north and east side of the ground, the existing Fratton End stand extended northwards and the South Stand partly retained. This achieved a capacity of 28,000 which was granted planning approval, although this approval has since lapsed. The land the club would own from the Tesco deal would facilitate the 28,000 capacity scheme.
There was a second phase to add an extra tier to the west stand and infill the southeast and southwest corners to increase capacity up to as much as 35,000, although this proposal was not considered in the 2004 planning application and would not yield such a capacity on the land the Tesco deal provides. 32,000 would be a fairer estimate in that regard.
There are however a couple of issues to rotating the ground which impact on its viability.
One is a mains electricity cable which runs under Milton Lane behind the North Stand. It has been estimated it could cost £2m to relocate this.
The other is the disruption such a development would cause the club not only physically in building two and a half new stands around the rotated pitch, but also the fact this would need a large sum to be provided in one go, if the ground is to make this transition in the quickest and least disruptive time possible.
Option 2 - Rebuild and extend with the existing orientation:
This option would see the Fratton Park pitch remain where it is and see each of the existing stands either rebuilt, refurbished or extended to achieve at least a 30,000 capacity in a series of phases as and when the club could afford to build.
The club had plans for the rotation thanks to the 2004 scheme, but did not have plans to see how a phased rebuild on the existing orientation could work.
Therefore I've carried out a feasibility study for the club to see how this could be done and what sort of capacity could be achieved.
The plan shows a much larger rebuilt North Stand, extended Fratton End stand (single tier 'kop') with a linking stand between the two. The Milton End would be rebuilt to a similar scale as it is at the moment and the South Stand could either be rebuilt to a similar size as existing or be given a complete refurbishment. Such a plan responds to the restrictions of the site. The Milton End and South Stand can't be much larger as they have houses behind them. The Fratton End is relatively new so only needs extending to improve it The real space to increase capacity is on the north side where there would be the room to expand back into the land the club would gain from the Tesco deal.
The issue of the electricity cable under Milton Lane can be overcome as the new North Stand could bridge over this, negating the need to relocate it. Also the Milton End stand could be designed to 'Safe Standing' specifications so it could be a Safe Standing terrace, which could increase capacity even further.
The real benefit of this option is it gives the club the flexibilty to build in phases as and when the funds are available. The order of the phases is also interchangeable so it could be the Milton End is rebuilt first or it could be the Fratton End is extended first. Like a jigsaw puzzle it's not the order you place the pieces that matter, it's the fact you're adding another peice to the overall picture, which in this case is the master plan. Being able to build as and when funds permit means the rebuild would be more sustainable for the club financially.
In terms of capacity this plan would add approx 2000 seats to the rear of the Fratton End. The rebuilt North Stand would hold up to 12,000 and the Milton End would be 3,500 (with the potential to increase with Safe Standing) Corner links and the refurbished South Stand could lift the capacity to 31,500* all seated
* It should be noted this plan works to larger seat widths (500mm) and legroom (750mm) than the 2004 scheme which had 460mm wide seats and 700mm legroom. These marginal figures can affect the capacity by more than 10% so in this case, of the 21,000 'new build' seats it could add over 2,000 more seats to the capacity. It's decisions like 'more seats or more comfort' that the club could canvass fans on when the stadium issue starts to really move forward.
What sort of timeframes are we looking at?
The Tesco application should be decided in May/June time. If it gets planning approval, the club will gain the extra land soon after and work on the car park could be complete late summer. In any event, the old car park would remain in use until the new one was ready. It would not be until then that the club would start to look at how it can move this issue forward.
So as it stands, things are at a very early stage, but hopefully I've been able to show what work the club has done to make the best of the neighbouring Tesco development and how it can enable the club to start thinking about how we can make Fratton Park a bigger and better football ground, all Pompey fans can be proud of.
Play Up Pompey
Michael Saunders is a PST Board Member and Registered Architect. He undertook his Architectural training (Degree, Post Graduate Diploma and Masters Degree) at the University of Portsmouth's School of Architecture and is now a partner in PDP Architecture LLP, based in Havant.