Football League club's stadium bid for Knebworth Park site

PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 October 2012

The area of land that could be used for a football stadium

The area of land that could be used for a football stadium

Archant

A STADIUM designed to host top flight football and major music concerts could be built in a Hertfordshire beauty spot.

The possible stadium site in the grounds of Knebworth House and ParkThe possible stadium site in the grounds of Knebworth House and Park

The Welwyn Hatfield Times has learned the owners of Knebworth Park and House have held preliminary talks with Stevenage FC chairman Phil Wallace, music promoters and two councils about the major project.

The land had been under option to a developer for the past 10 years but since the deal expired in March, Henry and Martha Lytton Cobbold have been seeking alternative options to raise funds for the urgent restoration of Knebworth House.

The Knebworth House Education and Preservation Trust has a £9.2m shortfall and the stately home is on English Heritage’s Priority Buildings at Risk Register.

The plan is to build on a small section of the 55 acre Green Belt site.

Henry Lytton Cobbold told the WHT: “We’ve been looking for ideas for use for this land at junction 7 of the A1(M) for 20 years and I can think of nothing I would rather do than to give the football club the chance to expand on their success and also use the venue for music events.

“Football and music seasons are opposite each other and if a case could be made for a facility to benefit both then I would like to pursue it.

“But there would be a number of hoops to jump though first, not least finding someone to build the facility. And, of course, there are a number of important planning issues.

“As an enthusiastic supporter of the club, however, I would love to see it happen.”

Stevenage FC chairman Mr Wallace said: “It’s a long way ahead. If I wasn’t thinking three to five years ahead we wouldn’t have got to where we are now.

“If I’m looking ahead and I think about going into the Championship then you have to start to wonder about a new stadium.

“With a new stadium, you come in starting from scratch and you can build a much better commercial venue. The Lamex Stadium wasn’t designed to hold upwards of 5,000 people at a time.”

Moving to a new ground would be a big step, and an expensive one too, for the club.

It would also depend on crowd sizes at Boro.

Stevenage’s average crowd size last season was 3,558, which was up from 2,898 the previous term, but this year, after the first four home league matches, the average crowd size was just 2,642, the lowest in the league by 600.

After two promotions in three years, Stevenage now compete in League One.

It is a level at which they face clubs such as Notts County and Tranmere Rovers.

“If you don’t get the attendances then it becomes difficult to stay in League One never mind the Championship,” Mr Wallace said.

“You have to capture the imagination of local people.

“We’re making progress but it’s not easy.”

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