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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Carlisle United pursue retail options for new stadium

Retailers who would never consider setting up a city centre store are being eyed as part of a development that could bankroll a new stadium for Carlisle United.

CNDR aerial photo
Carlisle Utd have ambitions for an edge of city stadium

Shareholders of the League One club have been told that efforts to move from the Blues’ historic Brunton Park home to Kingmoor Park will continue.

United’s hope is that a so-called enabling development, which would be retail-based, would pay for their new 12,000 all-seater ground on the northern edge of the city.

Carlisle City Council is against a major out-of-town shopping scheme amid fears such a complex could hit city centre trade.

But that is not stopping United executives and their developers trying to find a way forward.

At the club’s annual general meeting, an overview given to shareholders by managing director John Nixon stated: “There’s is no intention to destroy the town centre but we need to go forward as part of enabling development.

“That would mean that a new stadium would need retail units in the area. Our developers continue to look at the types of shop and business which would not ever consider a move into the centre of Carlisle as an option for them.

“Hopefully, if we get that, then we will find that it enhances what we already have in the city and that people will want to do their shopping here rather than travel further afield.

“Meetings with the developer, the council and council officials will continue as we try to agree a way forward.”

Executives at United have codenamed their stadium plan Project Blue Yonder. Details of the Kingmoor vision were unveiled a year ago. Shareholders were told that scheme, which included a study on Brunton Park, exploring potential stadium sites and an exhibition of proposals, has so far cost £13,385.

Executives say the driving force behind the move is the club’s on-going aim to reach the e Championship – and meet the grounds standards demanded in that league. “To develop the current stadium on all four sides with seating, catering, media needs, car parking and everything required to make it a modern facility, it will cost somewhere in the region of £18m. That money would have to be generated by the club,” shareholders were told.

“An enabling development for a 12,000 all-seater stadium, with facilities built in-place and the room and ability to increase capacity, will effectively cost the club nothing.”

The update was given at the AGM held on November 29. United only released a summary detailing the summary over the weekend.

Independent expert estimates of Carlisle’s retail needs up until 2021 have come up with a floorspace estimate for additional non-food shopping developments that falls far short of what would be needed to finance a stadium. These findings form part of official council policy.

Government policy also dictates that city centre sites should be treated as priority for new shopping schemes.

This does not stop a planning application that involves retail being tabled.

Developers would have to prove that whatever is proposed is justified and would not take trade away from the city centre. An alternative way of bankrolling the stadium would be to come up with an alternative development. Kingmoor Park Properties, United’s partner in the project, have said they would never intend to harm city centre trade.

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