We recently ran a piece on the hopes of non-league Worcester City to move to a new stadium in conjunction with a property developer. A local correspondent has subsequently written in to comment, 'Seems to me that there is a considerable amount of politics and economics and very little football in all of this.' It is undoubtedly the case that developers can use a stadium development with its supposed community benefits to overcome planning objections to a development. Our local correspondent states that the proposed site at Nunnery Way lies just within the Worcester City administrative boundary and has long been designated the 'M5 Protection Corridor' to prevent urban sprawl up to and along the motorway. Only recreational and agricultural use is permitted on this land. The potential loophole is that 'recreational use' of the M5 Protection Corridor could be interpreted to permit a stadium. Once that is built, there could be piggy-back planning permission for 'mixed use enabling development'. Thus, our local correspondent claims, 'the football club is used by [developers] St.Modwen as a planning Trojan horse to get permission for mixed use development on a [greenfield] site to which they would otherwise not have access.'
The football club is badly in debt and has an aspiration to get into the football league, although it may be questioned whether this is a realistic hope given that they have been trying for over 100 years and are not even in the Conference. Other solutions might be to sell and lease back the existing ground at St.George's Lane or share with Worcester Warriors Rugby Club at Sixways, although the football supporters would rattle around in a 10,000 capacity stadium likely to go up to 13,000. This has been raised with the rugby club, and primacy of tenure (whose fixtures come first) has been raised as an issue. However, this could be overcome, providing that there was an acknowledgment by the football authorities that the rugby club have first claim. From the perspective of those who oppose the prospective development, 'St. Modwen is driving a coach and horses through the spirit and intentions of the Local Plan which was arrived at through due democratic processes and specifically written to preserve the green fields between Worcester and the M5 motorway.' It might make an interesting case study for one of the students always writing to us about dissertation topics.