Green Party in England & Wales
ARSENALíS STADIUM OPENING ďIN THE BALANCEĒ
The planned opening of Arsenalís new £350m Emirates Stadium next†
month hangs in the balance after police and council officials†
confirmed key safety measures were still not in place.
Arsenalís first match in the 60,000 seat stadium is scheduled for 22†
July, but it still does not have a licence to operate. And in a†
further blow to Arsenalís plans, Green Party councillor Katie Dawson†
has won her bid for full public consultation on controversial match-
day road closures.
ďAll the way along, Arsenal have assumed that Islington Council will†
fall in line with their plans,Ē Katie said. ďBut the local community†
have won the right to have their say. And if local councillors listen†
and refuse to agree to close these roads, then the stadium cannot open.Ē
The police have confirmed that, without the road closures, they will†
oppose granting Arsenal a stadium licence Ė a legal requirement under†
the Football Licensing Act. And Chief Superintendent Barry Norman,†
Islingtonís top cop, has separately voiced his fears about crowd†
safety on match days, especially as planned upgrades to nearby rail†
and tube stations have been axed.
ďThey have been building this stadium for years,Ē added Katie, a†
local mother of three who was elected as Islingtonís first Green†
councillor in May. ďBut with a month to go, they still have not†
published the travel or safety plans for consultation. No-one wants†
to see the stadium stand empty, but we have seen endless broken†
promises and back-room deals over the Emirates stadium and the local†
community has had enough.Ē
The road closures would last for up to five hours and affect hundreds†
of homes. They would be imposed not only for weekend and evening†
fixtures but also for concerts and other events planned for the stadium.
Local people are also alarmed by police admissions that emergency†
vehicles may not be able to move through the huge crowds, and that†
rival fans will not be segregated outside the stadium.
Previously, decisions on Arsenal were taken by a council subcommittee†
which excluded local councillors. But in her first move after being†
elected, Katie Dawson succeeded in changing the constitution of†
Islington Council to allow planning decisions to be taken by the†
local area committee, made up of councillors representing the wards†
most directly affected.
The road closure orders will be decided at the area committee meeting†
on 27 June, where Councillor Dawson will table a motion rejecting†
them and calling on Arsenal to come up with fresh proposals. With†
five Labour councillors already backing her stance, all hangs on the†
six Lib Dem councillors on the committee.
If successful, one possible outcome would be that Arsenal would be†
granted a stadium licence with a reduced capacity while safety†
concerns were thrashed out. This would allow it to fulfil its fixture†
commitments but would mean less profit for the club from ticket sales.
ďFor years, the Council has done Arsenalís bidding,Ē said Katie. ďNow†
local councillors face a choice. They can force Arsenal back to the†
negotiating table. Or they can betray the people who elected them.Ē
Notes for Editors
The Emirates stadium is part of a £350m redevelopment at Ashburton†
Grove in Islington, North London, a few hundred yards from the†
existing Highbury Stadium. It will have 60,000 seats compared to†
38,000 at the old stadium, giving Arsenal the highest gate receipts†
of any European football club. The development costs are being offset†
by building several blocks of flats alongside the new stadium, and†
redeveloping the old stadium.
The redevelopment has been dogged by controversy, including the low†
proportion of social housing in the development, the siting of much†
of the social housing next to a waste transfer depot, the scrapping†
of promised upgrades for local tube stations to help bring in the†
extra crowds safely, the closure of the popular JVC youth centre, the†
possibility of a casino in the new stadium complex, the impact of†
increased traffic on the areaís narrow streets, and plans to park†
coaches in residential streets rather than in an underground car park†
Until May 2006, planning decisions were taken either by the full†
Council or by the Corporate Services Committee, which did not include†
any councillors from the wards most closely affected by the†
proposals. The change in the Council constitution moved by Councillor†
Dawson allows the Council to remit such planning decisions to the†
East Area committee, made up of 12 councillors from four nearby†
wards. The committee (like the full Council) is evenly balanced with†
6 Lib Dem, 5 Labour, and 1 Green councillor. The Lib Dem chair has†
the casting vote.
Council officers have confirmed that the police consider that the†
road closure orders are needed for the new stadium to operate safely.†
Without them, the police would advise Islington Council not to issue†
a licence to operate the stadium.
The first match in the new stadium was due to be a friendly against†
Ajax at 5pm on 22 July. For more information see www.arsenal.com.
Katie Dawson was elected for the Highbury West ward in May 2006.†
Originally from Dagenham, she has lived in Highbury since the 1980s†
and is married with three young children.