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Lively Stadium Plans Discussion

November 27, 2014

26thNovTHANKS to the 70+ people who braved a damp evening to attend the Sonstrust’s General Meeting last night (26th November), where there was a visual presentation of the proposed Dumbarton FC stadium and redevelopment scheme, plus almost an hour’s worth of direct and robust Q&A.

Planning consultant Roddy MacLeod, who is working for the developers, said that points from the consultation earlier in December are already being taken on board — including the need to ensure that the first stage of development on the Young’s Farm site can deliver a stadium that starts out with a 2,000 capacity. This was a point raised strongly by fans. He answered detailed questions on transport and access, as well as commenting on environmental concerns, and the housing and commercial market that the proposal is being pitched into. He stressed that this proposal is at its earliest stage, focussing on planning permission for the scheme, and set out a timetable running through to 2018.

Club CEO Gilbert Lawrie addressed concerns about the sustainability of the plans and the way the financing of different stages will work. He emphasised that the risk of this turnkey development was being born by the developers, not by Dumbarton FC, and that the relationship with them was positive. The aim is a ‘win-win’ situation for club, community and developers together.

Club chairman Alan Jardine offered strong assurance that the club board, which includes trust rep Alan Findlay and a majority with a deep commitment to the future of DFC, would not approve any plan that could not deliver full security to Dumbarton FC. He said that he hoped there could be more meetings of this kind as the development proceeded, but made clear his view that a new stadium bringing improved facilities and fresh revenue streams, a pot of cash for the club and return for the investors was vital for the flourishing of DFC. If we do not move forward, we will slip back, he said.

Sonstrust communications and projects officer Simon Barrow, who chaired the Q&A, and who is liaising with the club over this development on behalf of the trust, stressed that the role of the Sonstrust as a fully independent, democratic, registered cooperative of supporters, was to make sure that fans views and concerns are heard and taken on board as consultation and discussion on the stadium plans moves forward. The growing strength of the trust — which has over 300 members and is aiming at 400 — provides the basis for solid supporter and community involvement in the future of the club, he said.

The trust board is determined to ensure that anything that happens in the future, whether on the current site or a new site, is financially sustainable, ensures the security of the club, benefits fans, and serves the community,

The issue of the ‘Golden Share’ (100 ‘C’ shares), which is there to ensure that any sale of the present site does not imperil the assets or security of the club, was also raised. This is one of a series of issues the trust is actively liaising on to ensure proper accountability.

More details and information to follow. The trust is collecting all comments submitted by fans, and is compiling them for submission into the stadium proposal process. See the tag for this topic here. The next Sonstrust general meeting will be our AGM, which will be on Saturday 24th January 2015.

(Pic: Jack Crawford)

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Alistair MacNair permalink
    November 27, 2014 12:21 pm

    What Guarentees were give that the stadium would hold 4000? They mention a phased development just like the current stadium. I can see DFC being left with a 2000 stadium. Increasing it to 4000 increases the cost so less of a profit to be made on the move.

  2. Dave Carson permalink
    November 27, 2014 11:11 pm

    I found the meeting both interesting and informative, but not a little concerning. Whilst the presentation was professional and outlined a vision for the future which I don’t think any Dumbarton supporter would take serious issue with, the process by which it will all be achieved is considerably more opaque than the artist’s impressions which were on display.

    To their credit Gilbert Lawrie and Alan Jardine did not duck a single question and no-one should be in any doubt of their integrity and sincerity. However, having probably avoided an iceberg with the exit of Neil Rankine, his replacement in the form of Brabco and their stated raison d’etre to leverage capital from the site of the football ground, DFC could now be facing another looming problem.

    To my inexpert eye Brabco has no track record in delivering developments such as we have seen presented last night, but perhaps more pertinently they do not seem to have any cash reserves either. The first issue can possibly be addressed by Gilbert’s hand on the tiller, but as I see it the second requires the seed funding for Phase One to be generated from the sale of the current site. And to me, should Planning Consent be granted, this will become a key point.

    As said last night I have serious concerns that the land value of the BBS land parcel will achieve anything like what it would have in, say, 2007. Turnberry Homes paid top dollar for the adjacent site on the Castle Road and due to the banking crash have effectively mothballed it ever since; the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the BBS land will not achieve that top dollar price. And that affects things downstream.

    I’m also uneasy with statements that DFC has not thus far committed a penny to the exercise and it will not be exposed to risk; I’m still struggling to reconcile this with the fact that the proponents of the scheme, ie Brabco, are also with 75% the majority shareholder in Dumbarton FC. The DFC Board may well be required to pass any proposals but Brabco are holding the heavy artillery here.

    I do hope that my reticence is misplaced but I see too many unknowns, known and otherwise, at this stage to be fully on board. I’m concerned over many aspects, and I’m currently working on the basis that if it sounds too good to be true – eg ‘lots of money in the bank’, ‘supporters bar open seven days a week’ – then it probably is too good to be true.

    Let’s support as we can but exercise rigour as things unfold; my absolute fear is just how a thwarted Brabco would react and I feel as a Trust we should be prepared for that. Football stadia are bricks and mortar, the club is the living organism here with everything that implies.

  3. November 28, 2014 9:46 am

    Alistair: what is being said is that there will be an agreement on phase 2 when phase 1 is signed off on. Some fans are concerned 4k won’t be delivered, others think we don’t need it, btw! Dave: thanks for a really thoughtful contribution. Necessary questions. “Let’s support as we can but exercise rigour as things unfold”. That’s exactly what we are wanting to do – with a firm eye on the medium and long term, as well as the short run. Keep the comments coming, folks!

  4. The Other Carson permalink
    November 30, 2014 6:10 am

    Leaving the funding & viabilty issues to one side for a second, why is this site even being considered for development?
    It is entirely unsuitable for a number of reasons.
    The land on the proposed site is mainly marshland and sits on a flood plain.
    Even In the middle of a decent summer the majority of the proposed site remains extremely soft under foot and squelchy in many areas, whilst over the autumn & winter it is prone to heavy flooding.
    It’s proximity to the river ensures that when the Leven overflows it’s banks, as it often does during wet spells, parts of the Young’s farm site are completely submerged underwater.
    Now of course, the developers will say that they can provide adequate drainage, but to make this site right they would have to spend major money right at the start to make the ground suitable for building upon, funds which simply will not be available to them..
    Even if proper funding were to become available and the drainage done effectively by the developers, the overflow of water rom the Young’s farm site would go straight back into the drains & therefore into the river, only adding to the potential flooding problem in the town.
    Anyone who knows the area will be well aware of the pre-existing flooding problem in the area writ large over the last few years, particularly in Dumbarton East & the quayside.
    No responsible planning committee is realistically going to allow that floodrisk to worsen.
    On a slightly different tack, as a result of this seasonal flooding, the site has become a refuge for many marshland bird species, some of which, i’m told, are now quite scarce.
    If the project to build on the site is green-lit, i think it’s reasonable to expect a lot of opposition from environmental & wildlife groups looking to protect these bird species & the unique habitat which supports them and the other animal species found there.
    At the very least this would hold up plans, as environmental impact studies would then likely have to be draughted, but it also raises the possibility of potential legal action, again setting the project back and adding extra unforseen costs to the process.
    I also have other more minor concerns which i can add & expand upon if requested, but i feel i’ve already presented more than enough food for thought to illustrate my severe misgivings about the proposed development site.

  5. Dave Carson permalink
    November 30, 2014 7:16 pm

    I must admit to surprise at the response of the Planning Consultant when this was raised, to the extent that serious flooding had been categorised by SEPA (?) as a once-in-200 years risk.

    As regards Planning Consent, although I believe WDC is very keen for DFC to vacate Castle Road I don’t think it is a given. And there are many people and organisations in the area with no interest in football who may consider that a football club which relocated as little as 15 years back has no need or right to encroach on green belt land.

  6. Alastair Barrow permalink
    November 30, 2014 7:50 pm

    As someone who used the cycle track for several years to travel between Dumbarton & the Vale for my then-job, i would adjust the once-in-200 years flood risk to a more realistic once-a-year.
    The flooding at that part of the river where Young’s Farm sits became a more regular occurance after dredging of the Leven ceased and only became worse over the years which followed.
    Unless there are plans afoot to return to regular dredging, and a properly funded drainage plan i can’t see how this area is in any way suitable for a project such as this.

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