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Substituting Stadia and Facilities

Substituting Stadia and Facilities

Matt Pochin-Hawkes 30 Jul 2020
In football anything can happen. As a Leicester fan I know this first hand; going from fighting a relegation battle one season to winning the league at 5000-1 odds the next (and no, I hadn’t put a tenner on that eventuality). Despite football’s unpredictability, clubs need to plan for the future and remain one step ahead of the game to be competitive. For stadia, planning for the future often means: providing additional stadium capacity; expanding facilities to provide more diverse and regular income streams; and upgrading facilities to meeting new FA requirements. The question of how football clubs put these plans into action varies greatly and is hugely dependant on a club’s financial position and objectives. Strategies range from: smaller scale and shorter-term upgrades to facilities; investment in new purpose-built stadium/facilities at or adjacent to an existing stadium; or development of a new stadium at an entirely new site. Increasingly, clubs are also seeking to introduce alternative uses to kick-start development and facilitate longer-term investment returns through an expanded non-matchday non-sporting offer. Land availability, finances, investment returns (existing and anticipated), needs of the fanbase, the heritage of the club, mixed-use opportunities and environmental sensitivities are all factors influencing whether and how stadia and facilities are upgraded. As with all redevelopment strategies, the decision on how to unlock new facilities needs to be carefully balanced against planning policy constraints. Green Belt, heritage and town centre policies are just some of the planning factors which can have a big influence. This blog – the third of a ‘hattrick’ of blogs – explores some of these influencing factors. Home vs. Away: Is there a home advantage? Some stadia have remained at the same ground for many decades; with urban development growing around them to create new development opportunities (through increasing land values and footfall) and challenges (through the introduction of amenity sensitive uses such as residential) for football clubs which need to be carefully navigated by redevelopment proposals. Football architectural historian Simon Inglis comments that Manchester United’s Old Trafford (opened in 1910) was the first to have a long-term masterplan from the start; providing scope for incremental expansion on a large unencumbered site. Whilst a stadium masterplan is now commonplace (particularly in the Premier League), few clubs initially followed Man Utd’s lead; ending up on cramped sites which evolved through ad-hoc organic expansion. Some clubs have made this work; harnessing the unique character and heritage of sites to their advantage and finding innovative ways to expand. Fulham Football Club’s Craven Cottage oozes character and includes two listed buildings. The new Riverside Stand currently being built will sensitively balance the heritage of the site with the desire to establish an iconic building as a positive landmark along the river, capable of supporting a diversified food, beverage and hospitality offer; providing an enhanced stadium and truly mixed-use destination in its own right on the banks of the River Thames. Other stadia strategies involve relocating stadia to new locations. Highbury was the historic heart of Arsenal Football Club dating back to 1913. After the Gunners famous 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ season, Arsenal moved to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 – boosting capacity by over 20,000. Highbury was then partially demolished and redeveloped to provide 655 new home via Allies and Morrison’s Highbury Square development. Part funding the stadium move, the Highbury Square development incorporates the listed East and West Stands and reinvents the pitch as a communal garden. Whilst Wenger claims ‘we left our soul at Highbury’, and a programme of ‘Arsenalisation’ was needed to invigorate the spirit of Highbury, the stadium has created new opportunities beyond football, including conferencing and live music events. Infamously, Wimbledon Football Club, after rejecting a variety of possible local sites, moved from south London to Milton Keynes in 2003. This ultimately splintered the club, spurring the creation of AFC Wimbledon and the rebranded MK Dons. AFC Wimbledon is now in the process of building a new stadium close to its spiritual home of Plough Lane as part of a joint venture with Galliard Homes. Alongside the stadium, the scheme includes 600 new homes, a squash and fitness club and retail space. Substitution Where more comprehensive upgrades are needed, new stadia redevelopment strategies can often involve building a new stadium next to the existing ground. The has the benefit of unlocking the redevelopment potential of the former stadium site and – on occasions – providing a smoother transition to a new ground through less interruption to home games (and associated match-day income streams). For lower league clubs with a greater reliance on match-day revenue, the importance of minimising interruption to home games and catalysing redevelopment through alternative uses are crucial factors in unlocking new facilities. Established in 1893, Dulwich Hamlet Football Club (DHFC) is one of the oldest league sides in London and has been part of the Dulwich community for over 125 years, with Champion Hill being DHFC’s home for the majority of that period. Located on the same plot as the current stadium, the former stadium (‘The Hill’ – built in 1931) was demolished as it was in a poor state of repair and did not meet the safety standards of the time. The current stadium was then rebuilt on the same site in 1991, funded by development of the Sainsbury’s supermarket on the Club’s former training pitches next to the site. Whilst the current stadium was built to meet prevailing standards, the stadium is now reaching the end of its economic life and is no longer fit for purpose. The grass pitch cannot be used intensively without compromising the quality of pitch and the existing stadium site cannot be upgraded to meet FA requirements of the league above (the National League) due to site constraints. To meet these requirements, DHFC must increase the capacity of the stadium to 4,000 spectators and provide specific additional facilities for players, officials and the press. In addition, the club has a number of core redevelopment objectives which include supporting the local community and keeping the club profitable. Moving out of Dulwich was not an option (viable or otherwise). The solution is a new stadium next to Champion Hill. A new 3G pitch and community stadium/leisure facility will enable DHFC to generate a sustained source of income on non-match-days and meet its community objectives by allowing use of the facilities by local school and community groups. Residential redevelopment of the existing stadium site to provide around 200 new homes plays an enabling role by funding the new stadium and leisure facility. Phasing allows for players to use interim facilities at the current stadium whilst the new stadium is being built. The development aims to deliver a win-win for the club and local community, whilst sensitively and innovatively responding to the setting of the new pitch in Metropolitan Open Land. The new stadium will have far reaching and wider benefits for the local community, including underpinning the important work DHFC does with the local community and charities. Key Factors Influencing Development Strategies  There is no one size fits all solution to how football clubs improve their facilities. Decisions on how to provide new facilities are influenced by a myriad of factors which are often locational specific and strongly influenced by the philosophy of the club and its fanbase. A common thread is the increasing co-location of residential, leisure, retail and food/beverage uses alongside stadia (as touched on in Ian’s earlier blog) and joint venture partnerships with developers. The mixed-use approach not only provides a diversified source of income (if managed by football clubs in the longer term) but also acts as a catalyst to kick-start and fund redevelopment proposals through enabling investment in new facilities through the increased value. Successful strategies, whether they involve refurbishment/expansion or creation of an entirely new stadium, depend on capturing the development opportunities to meet the needs of the club and articulating the scheme benefits to secure support from local communities and decision makers. With discussions turning to how stadia will reopen to fans, short and long-term planning strategies for clubs, stadia and facilities will become increasingly important as normal play begins to resume.

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The High Street isn’t dead, long live the High Street #4 - Repurposing for Alfresco Summer Dining
The reopening of ‘non-essential’ shops on 15 June has provided the ability for the core of many town centres (shops) to reopen, albeit with social distancing measures in place. While shops are a key component of all town centres and high streets and will undoubtedly continue to play a central role in their future landscape, a major component of town centre vibrancy and character are the food and beverage uses. Restaurants and bars are meeting places and hubs for social activity: places where friendships are forged; couples fall in love; and business dealings are done. They have a strong emotional attachment for many of us – walking into your favourite restaurant or pub is like coming home. There has been huge growth in food and beverage uses in recent years. This growth has been positive for our town centres – encouraging longer dwell times and making our high streets more liveable. The impact of Covid-19 has been immediate and devastating for many aspects of commercial life. For town centres, high streets and destinations centred around eating and drink, entertainment and hospitality, the effects have been felt hardest. This threatens the very essence of place and what makes our town centres and high streets so special. So, with this culture and way of life having been under threat, what is the route map out of the crisis and reversion to normality from 4th July? Is the longer-term repurposing of our high streets to support active travel unavoidable? And will this (weather permitting!) usher in a new wave of alfresco dining? Active Travel & Temporary Measures to Improve the Public Realm Coronavirus has brought the need to make town centres and high streets easily and safely accessible into sharp focus. For those with mobility issues or young children this has been known for some time. Where, in ‘normal’ times, you’d shuffle along a high street dodging and weaving as you go, the need for more space is now greater. Space which is often in short supply given the competing demands on high street spaces. Following a review of social distancing measures, the Prime Minister has set out that, where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means “staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission”. Providing sufficient space for social distancing is a huge challenge for food and beverage operators. The relaxation of the ‘2m rule’ is a welcome and crucial change for pubs, bars and restaurants which revolve around close contact socialising and are often constrained by small unit sizes. As explored in Steven Butterworth’s blog, Transport for London (TfL) and boroughs authorities are rapidly reallocating road space in London to accommodate significant increases in active travel modes through the Streetspace initiative. The Mayor’s Healthy Street policies and initiatives are in effect being accelerated to accommodate pandemic-based travel demands. The Government’s guidance to support social distancing through the creation of Safer Public Spaces includes a number of ‘typical temporary interventions’ for high streets and town centres. These include: Widening footways; Introducing cycleways; Reducing traffic speeds; Provision of seating areas for the disabled and elderly; and Pedestrianisation.  For many town centres, these interventions are aspirational longer-term strategies in their own right. They have potential to make our town centres safer, more attractive and vibrant post-pandemic if they gain traction, public support and become embedded in the public realm. Many of the interventions are also key tenants of town centre planning and transport policy, site specific guidance and Area Action Plans.  TfL and many local authorities have acted swiftly. In London, TfL has widened the pavement widths in Brixton to provide more space for pedestrians and Hackney Council has closed Broadway Market to traffic to creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. A campaign to make changes at Broadway Market permanent has already been set up.      Brixton Source: @EdDavie via Twitter Broadway Market Source: @Hackneycyclist via Twitter In the short to medium term, the focus on promoting active travel and discouraging the use of public transport for all but essential journeys, may mean that we end up living our lives (and spending our money) more locally. For now, initiatives like this provide a boost in confidence that our local high streets are safe and open for business by creating the space needed to visit whilst respecting social distancing. Optimising Outdoor Space: Alfresco Dining Social distancing measures mean that restaurants and bars will need to operate at significantly reduced capacity (which will undermine viability for many) unless they are able to compensate for social distancing through the provision of additional seating areas beyond their demise or expansion of their customer base through takeaway services. For one year (until 23 March 2021) temporary permitted development rights allow restaurants and cafes (Use Class A3) and drinking establishments (Use Class A4) to provide takeaway food (subject to notification). This swift action has allowed many businesses to take advantage of the new PDR and keep some income flowing throughout lockdown. Depending on the location and design of outdoor seating areas planning permission and/or a licence may be required. This takes time, has risks and is often only permitted for temporary periods (usually one year).    With this in mind, MHCLG has called on local authorities to accelerate licence approvals for the sale of takeaway food and drink outside of premises and refrain from taking enforcement action “which would result in unnecessarily restricting outdoor stalls during this period”. Local authorities are also called on to explore opportunities for setting up more outdoor markets and identify whether “closing certain streets to traffic could better support temporary markets and outdoor eating”. The emerging Business and Planning Bill will further ease the burden on operators by streamlining the licensing process for businesses wishing to put tables and chairs outside of cafes, bars and restaurants and by allowing some operators to continue using outdoor seating areas without needing to re-apply for planning permission. The proposed temporary pavement licences process will simplify, speed up and reduce the costs of the consent route for outdoor seating (no more than £100), making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside. Temporary changes to licensing laws will also allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises – making social distancing easier. In addition, proposed planning freedoms announced on 25 June “mean that proposals for outdoor markets, pop-up car boot sales or summer fairs will not need a planning application which will transform the way people shop and socialise”. Whilst the press release refers to these specific uses, the benefits are far broader – allowing use of land within the curtilage of a building for a wide range of activities and for an associated moveable structure to be erected. In London, Soho Estates is campaigning for Westminster City Council to allow the temporary pedestrianisation of parts of Soho so restaurants are able to offer outdoor seating (outside their land ownership on the public highway). The Soho Summer Street Festival aims to reinvigorate much of Soho and lead the recovery of Soho as the cultural and vibrant heart of London. For smaller asset manager or individual businesses, there is an urgent need for joined up thinking and for local authorities and/or Business Improvement District to support businesses by taking the lead in making our streets and public realm more alfresco friendly.  Internationally, many cities around the world have reclaimed streets (mostly from cars) to facilitate the expansion of restaurant and bars.   Copenhagen Source: @colvilleandersn via Twitter New York Source: @ReynosoBrooklyn via Twitter There are also innovative off the shelf solutions capable of being rolled out, such as the below modular ‘Parklet’ in Hammersmith and Fulham: Hammersmith and Fulham Source: @PaulWellman_ via Twitter Takeaways With the repurposing of road space, facilitation of active travel and reduced risk of enforcement action being taken, easing of lockdown will give rise to one of the biggest experiments in our town centres. As we get use to this new way of life, some of these measures may become a permanent fixture, making town centres and high streets more accessible, liveable and pleasant spaces to spend time in.  Lichfields is well placed to help navigate this transition through assisting with pavement licence applications, securing temporary worthwhile uses, and repurposing town centre sites to help breathe new life into high streets. The 4th of July is set to become England’s ‘independence’ celebration too. Bring on the summer. See other blogs in this series: Where we are now, in the middle of a crisis The planning response to COVID-19 High Streets starting to bounce back​

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