PLANS to rebuild the Abbey Stadium, home of Elite League speedway champions the Swindon Robins, are back on the table.
The long-awaited development has stepped up a gear as the firms behind the multi-million pound project work to secure the funding and gain planning consent for the final details of the scheme.
The outline application setting out the principles of the development was first approved by Swindon Council in September 2008, with the aim of the work being completed by the 2010 speedway season. But it was brought back to the plans committee and re-approved in 2010 after the recession halted the previous plans.
The scheme will see the demolition of the existing 60-year-old stadium at Blunsdon, as well as the adjacent Blunsdon Market, and the construction of a new stadium with a speedway and greyhound track, youth training facilities and a new market. There will also be 450 new homes, office space and a new care home.
In a new application to slightly alter the outline application, the agent for the applicants Landvest PCC Ltd and Gaming International Ltd, states that, if approved, they will be ready to submit the first of several so-called reserved matters applications to seek approval for the details of the scheme, such as the design of homes.
Crucially, the document reveals that a national housebuilder has been engaged to bring forward the first phase of housing, which is key to funding the stadium part of the development.
James Walker, of Pegasus Planning Group, writes: “Abbeymeads Ltd and Gaming International Ltd remain committed to delivering the new Abbey Stadium.
“To this end we are engaged with a national housebuilder to bring forward the first phase of the housing development to enable the project to be funded at the earliest opportunity. It is intended to submit the first reserved matters application early in the New Year.”
But he said some outline conditions need to be reworded or altered, partly because they would delay the delivery of the housing and consequently the funding of the stadium.
Swindon Robins’ manager Alun Rossiter said: “It would be a good time to have a new stadium, certainly after we have just won the league.
“We could push harder with the league – it would be a big help. It’s something that helps us sell in terms of getting the corporate sponsors and more supporters. With a new stadium, you can attract a lot more people to see what it looks like.”
John Cook, 40, of Wanborough, who has been a Robins since he was eight, said the development would secure the long-term future of the team.
He added: “Hopefully it will happen and it will be very good if it does because it hasn’t been touched since the 1940s. It hasn’t been touched for a long time – it needs new stands and new bars .
“But whether it will get done or not is a different story. People say things are going to happen but they never do.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, who played a pivotal role in helping to save the stadium in conjunction with the Adver’s Save Our Speedway campaign six years ago, said he recently met the developers who said they would start construction within 12 months of approval of the reserved matters application.
He said: “We are supportive for two reasons. Firstly, as we will provide a sustainable and positive long-term future for the speedway team that, having just won the league, is a real jewel of our sporting entertainment.
“And secondly the development was a switch from light industrial provision to residential which was supported by local residents who were delighted to avoid heavy industrial traffic.”
Coun Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said: “The Abbey Stadium development was approved several years ago and it would be good to see this come forward sooner rather than later with the stadium.
“The developer has been in discussions with the council about a number of changes, particularly to ensure that the housing is viable but also to ensure there’s the right infrastructure in place, for example they will be delivering a fire station for the north.”