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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 11:43 GMT
Arsenal's stadium boost
Plans for new Arsenal football stadium
Plans for the new home of Arsenal Football Club
Arsenal's plans for a new 60,000-seater stadium at Ashburton Grove have been given a massive boost.

Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Byers confirmed on Wednesday that he will not be referring the scheme to a public inquiry.

The way is now clear for Islington Council to grant the club planning permission for the new stadium, which it hopes will be completed in time for the 2004/5 season.

There is not sufficient conflict in this warrant calling in the applications
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers

Planning officers had already recommended the scheme be given the go-ahead, with the council keen to regenerate an area in desperate need of improvement.

"My general approach is not to interfere with the jurisdiction of local planning authorities unless it is necessary to do so," said Mr Byers in a statement.

"I have reached the conclusion that there is not sufficient conflict in this case with national planning policies or any other sufficient reason to warrant calling in the applications," he added.

The new site is less than a mile from the club's current Highbury ground, which has been their home for nearly 90 years.

Arsene Wenger
Manager Arsene Wenger is firmly behind the scheme

Government approval was the third and final obstacle facing Arsenal after they initially unveiled plans for the proposed 400m project in November 2000.

The first was removed when Islington councillors approved the scheme last December, voting 34-7 in favour, with one abstention, on granting permission for the new stadium.

London's mayor Ken Livingstone retained the right to veto the project, but endorsed the plans last month after the club worked with his planners to improve the initial project.

Arsenal also pledged to increase its contribution for local transport improvement from 5.75m to more than 7.5m.

The only possible remaining setback lay with a public inquiry into protests from residents concerned at potential increases in traffic and noise levels.

Some 83 firms currently at Ashburton Grove will also need to be relocated.

But Mr Byers' decision not to intervene with the local council's backing for the planning application has removed the final hurdle for Arsenal.

Club director Ken Friar welcomed the news on Wednesday.

"We are clearly delighted that Stephen Byers has chosen not to call in our proposal for the stadium at Ashburton Grove, allowing us to remain in the borough of Islington," Friar said.

"An enormous amount of effort has been put into the scheme by the whole of the project team and we are very excited about the development.

"However, now the real hard work begins with the challenge of building a world class stadium for Arsenal, which will hugely benefit both our Club and the local community."

Arsenal director Daniel Fizsman
"It will allow us to compete with Europe's best"
See also:

11 Dec 01 |  Arsenal
Arsenal's stadium hopes
11 Dec 01 |  Arsenal
Arsenal's stadium joy
12 Oct 01 |  Eng Prem
Mayor backs Arsenal plan
07 Nov 00 |  Arsenal
Arsenal unveil new stadium plans
10 Dec 01 |  Arsenal
Arsenal bank on stadium
06 Dec 01 |  Arsenal
Wenger signs new deal
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