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Tony's Answers

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  Click on the links above to see other pages about the new stadium.

A while ago Tony Kleanthous (pictured - from the official site) invited readers of the Barnet Times newspaper to send in questions, which he would answer.

That article, which originally appered on 12 December 2001, is reproduced below.

 
       
  Question time with Tony (Barnet Times)

Introduction

It is ironic in a week when Islington Council has voted in favour of Arsenal FC getting a new stadium near Highbury that we are still waiting for our future to be resolved. The Barnet FC proposal is not a commercial development, it is a community development. Along with club spokesman Dennis Signy, I have been subjected to a number of baseless and misinformed attacks. I have personally answered the following questions in an open and honest manner. Barnet Council has decided that south of Underhill is the only available site for Barnet FC to remain in the borough and has, in essence, invited this application. Surely councillors who say they support the club, but oppose this application, are effectively saying Goodbye Barnet FC'.

Question

Why did Barnet FC not carry out a consultation exercise of residents before making the planning application and is the football club going to call a public meeting so residents can hear in greater detail what the plans are going to entail?

Answer

This question is more than a little mischievous. Discussions on the possibility of Barnet Football Club moving south of its existing site have been ongoing throughout my seven years here. These have involved both residents and supporters alike. The original plan drawn up by Barnet Council was displayed in the newspapers about a year ago and the current proposal has been developed taking into account the views expressed by the relevant authorities. The consultation process is a function of the planning authority. We would happily have discussed matters with those residents adjoining the site but this almost immediately became impossible when people from as far away as Totteridge and Finchley began stirring local anxieties. Let's be clear: there are approximately one hundred residents living in Barnet Lane and Fairfield Way/Grasvenor Avenue adjacent to the cricket field who have legitimate concerns. Our plan will undoubtedly cause them some inconvenience and it is very important that if the outcome of the planning application is favourable, that we then sit down with them and ensure we can find a way to move forward taking into account their views. As far as wider consultation is concerned, we considered that answering all questions put through the media was the best way to ensure all residents in the borough received an honest reply to their queries.

Question

How can Barnet FC justify the new stadium when it will seriously affect the lives of residents, erode the Green Belt, result in beautiful trees being cut down and the loss of the Cricket Club?

Answer

The lives of far more people will be affected by the loss of the club than the granting of this application. Most of the people who live near our stadium do not own their own homes and therefore are not concerned with property values. The hundreds of full and part time jobs we generate are mainly for the less affluent in our borough and the kids we help keep off the streets would struggle to find better use of their time. Let's not forget our supporters are residents also. Underhill Stadium is currently in the Green Belt. If we don't belong in the Green Belt then please remove the incorrect designation, if we do then let us build our stadium. You can't have it both ways! I am unsure about the loss of beautiful trees to which you refer. We are only removing a few trees but replacing those with many times more. The landscaping will be of the highest quality and this is where local residents will again be able to have an input. The stadium will not go ahead unless there is a satisfactory relocation of Barnet Cricket Club, St John Ambulance and the Scouts. We are not in the business of putting others out of business and we will only proceed with goodwill.

Question

How, financially, will the club be able to run two stadiums? If the project runs out of money will there be housing built to supplement financing?

Answer

We have stated time and again that we want to build something of which the whole borough can be proud and the GLA has made it absolutely clear that it wants the highest quality of design. A small 9,000-capacity stadium like the one proposed can be built for half the cost but do we really want a design based on a cheap cowshed? The majority of the costs will be in the internal fitting of the stadium and the project will also be phased to ensure that our ethos is preserved. This way each area is built as the investment becomes available. The existing pitch at Underhill is recognised as one of the best in non-League and lower-league football with more than a hundred thousand pounds of investment in my time alone. It seems crazy to destroy this just so that houses, a car park or a supermarket fills the void. We currently host BFC Reserves, Youth and Ladies fixtures as well as Arsenal Reserves. All these matches are free to spectators. Retaining the existing stand and pitch will allow this tradition to continue. It's these activities which build our support in the borough. As far as running costs are concerned we expect these to increase but only proportionately to the activity taking place. We expect a lot of our everyday operations to be more cost effective taking into account the maintenance aspect of the existing stadium facilities.

Question

Where is the 12million going to come from? Is Barnet Council giving the club the land or is the club leasing it? If so how much are the club paying?

Answer

The club has been negotiating to purchase its land for a considerable time now and long before this application was submitted. We expect an outcome regardless of our planning application. The cost of the new stadium will be borne by us but we see ourselves as a community asset and believe we should receive support as such. This is a matter for the London Borough of Barnet and will depend on the extent of community facilities provided within the new stadium. Can the club confirm if they have had any contact with Arsenal or any other club regarding any future financial involvement with Barnet FC by way of support for the application? If I could persuade any Premiership club to invest their money for the benefit of Barnet FC then I would, but the recent dispute with the PFA has shown that Premiership clubs and their money are not very easily parted. More importantly, football regulations prohibit financial support between clubs

Question

Will the stadium be used seven days a week? Can the club confirm if it will be used for parties, concerts etc?

Answer

I hope it's used seven days a week, that's the whole point. We will build stands that will only be used once every two weeks. We want to use the area underneath the stands to re-house the Scouts and St John Ambulance and provide educational rooms for our scholars (we currently hire facilities in Potters Bar and Epping Forest College). We also would want to use our hospitality areas for business meetings and our corporate boxes for scholar accommodation. We already have parties within our existing stadium and I understand the current Scouts and the St John premises are made available for this use also. We will be bringing all these activities under one roof. As far as concerts are concerned, there is nothing to prevent us doing this now but we have never held one. Remember our capacity is less than most indoor venues, so why would a performer want to use our stadium? What happens if Barnet FC don't get promoted in a few seasons? Will the application not be a total waste of money? It would be far worse to win the championship and be denied promotion. Can you imagine how hard it is to bring better players to the club when everyone knows that we will be expelled by 2004. Would you like to work for a company that limited your opportunities through no fault of your own?

Question

What benefit is the proposed stadium to nearby residents?

Answer

This is a very hard question to answer. Clearly if you are a football fan the advantages are obvious but there are also other local and environmental benefits. The area would be tidied and what is currently a messy collection of buildings, stands and terraces occupied by three organisations, will become one new home for all. On-site parking for officials, staff and sponsors will reduce congestion in the public car parks, making life easier for supporters and shoppers. Landscaping will improve the visual impact of the area. Leading edge lighting will reduce both the impact of floodlight pylons and light overspill, also new directional sound systems will reduce noise for the surrounding residents, particularly those adjacent to the existing stadium in Barnet Lane and Westcombe Drive. A coach park will eliminate the need for visitors to travel by car and therefore reduce congestion in the town. Also this will help speed the entry and exit of visitors. The continual survival of the club will ensure employment for residents both with the club or within the businesses that have come to depend on the trade we bring to the town. Also, community programmes, free soccer coaching for schools and special needs groups, after school clubs, support to local charities, etc. Effectively we sponsor the provision of sport for children, this in turn helps give a sense of belonging and identity for our youth.

Question

Why is there not adequate provision for parking on the plans? Does the club not realise the parking implications for nearby residents?

Answer

The parking shown is for staff, officials and sponsors. This also allows us to meet regulations as set down by the football authorities. There is no provision for spectator parking which is as per the existing arrangement. This is in line with the wishes of the government who would like to encourage all of us to make more use of public transport.

Question

Why can't the club build a smaller stadium? Why does the stadium have to have a capacity which the club will struggle to fill?

Answer

The minimum capacity for Football League and Conference clubs is 6,000. The proposed capacity for the second division was 8,000 and the first division 10,000. Lord Justice Taylor in his report after the Hillsborough disaster said clubs should not build to the minimum. The inspector at our last public inquiry accepted that 10,000 is a reasonable requirement for the clubs' aspirations. We set about to design a building which met the requirements of the club, Barnet Council, the GLA and the relevant football authorities. The capacity parameters we set were 8,000 to 10,000. When the capacity of the new stadium was calculated it was 9,212. These figures can change as spectator accommodation regulations vary from time to time. Let's not forget that not so long ago our existing stadium capacity was 11,000.

 
       
 

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