Redevelopment plans continue

Redevelopment plans continue
Lancashire Chief Executive Jim Cumbes has moved to allay fears over the re-development of Old Trafford after a recommendation by Trafford Borough Council not to demolish their Town Hall.

A multi-party steering group has recommended that the 1930's council building, on land which the county had hoped to use the land as part of the re-development, should not be knocked down. That decision is due to be ratified at a council meeting next month, but Cumbes says the decision will have no bearing on the club's plans.

In fact, the club, will next week sign an agreement to work with the council and are also hoping to announce a partnership with a commercial company who will help towards the financing of the redevelopment. If plans to keep the Town Hall are passed, the council will then decide whether to stay and refurbish the building or relocate to a site near the Trafford Centre. Either way, the building would not be demolished.

"You can never say never, but I am sure as I can be that we will be at Old Trafford for at least another 150 years," said Cumbes, who admits the club would probably have to borrow money to help finance the rebuilding. "It isn't a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination. We might still be able to use the land with the Town Hall on it if the council decide to move away. The Town Hall land, if it became available, was always going to be of benefit but it is not just this particular site we were looking at, it's other sites that might be available round and about.

"There are a lot of buildings in the area and adjacent to the club where people might decide to move elsewhere and if that can be used for development there may be some advantage from our point of view from the profit in that land. We are working hard with Trafford on something which we hope will be stunning for the public and will lift the area and we hope it will be a sports-lead regeneration with Lancashire at the heart of it.

Although final plans for the new Old Trafford are some way off, Cumbes admits if nothing is done in the next five years the club's status as a Test match venue could be at risk. The club's staging agreement with the ECB for internationals runs out in 2009.

"People think unless we do this we aren't going to get Test matches," said Cumbes. "The reason we didn't get a 2009 Ashes Test had nothing to do with the ground, it was money. We are keeping the ECB in the loop and they will be delighted when we put some plans on the table and I am sure they will work with us. Our facilities for internationals are still OK. We are in the top category of grounds and there is no reason to believe we will drop out of that group. But if we didn't do anything for five years, then we might.

"We haven't set a deadline, but we do want to move it forward. But until we know how much money we have got and what land we can accumulate, we can't really draw up any plans."

And the deputy leader of the council, Coun Matthew Colledge, says Trafford are fully behind Lancashire's plans.
"I don't see the decision to keep the Town Hall building is in any major conflict with Lancashire's very visionary proposals for a new stadium," he said. "We are hoping to work hand-in-hand with them to help bring forward their plan. Lancashire are exceptionally important to Trafford Council, it is one of the leading jewels in the crown of the borough. To imagine Trafford without Lancashire would be unthinkable."