McDiarmid: Future of the North Stand

Back in October 2011, the club announced that it had come to an agreement with Perth and Kinross Council to demolish the North Stand at McDiarmid Park, to allow the construction of a new link road between a supermarket development on Newton Hall Farm and the A9 city bypass.  Now, Geoff Brown has vowed to keep the stand intact.  But what are the plans in the first place, and why is the stand under threat?

The Plans…

The planning information is freely available on the web here.  The short story is that they wish to construct a new supermarket on the land currently occupied by Newton Hall Farm, directly to the East of McDiarmid Park.  The new supermarket will be complemented by a new road system to connect to the A9 bypass, including a link road which will pass to the North of McDiarmid.

The proposed link road passes straight over the current North Stand

The original submitted plans show the road passing within feet of the current pitch (as can be seen above).  But what is the likely hood of these plans becoming reality?

Well, in the current planning application, many references were made to McDiarmid Park and the demolition of the North Stand. So why are they going to demolish the North stand if its going to cost the taxpayer (you and me) money?

Discussion in planning application review of compensation and schedule for demolition of the North Stand

Indeed, the plans to demolish the North Stand are brought about by two difficulties.

1) Environmental concerns… As we all know the North Stand is bordered at the North by a forest.  Under the environmental rules the council has to minimize the number of trees removed in the construction process.  Their current proposal, to remove the North Stand means that the trees stay in place.  While this is not an insurmountable hurdle, it will require further consultations and permits.  A further complication is animal rights groups have already pointed out that there is bats living in the trees behind the North Stand, and thus, removing them would destroy their habitat.

Condition imposed that tree removal should be minimized

2) Drainage and earth works… As we also know, the forest behind the North Stand is raised considerably above the pitch level.  This presents issues as well for the road construction, as it requires major earthworks to level the land correctly.  It all presents issues with drainage for the road, as it must be positioned in such a way that it does not flood in heavy rain.  The below diagram shows the proposed road cross section.  The heights below it show the current elevation – as you can make out, they have chosen the route that is easiest to do – unfortunately right through the North Stand…

this cross sections shows the elevation of the carriage way. As you can see it will be slightly above pitch level (the edge of the green area is where our pitch will start)

Looking at the above, it is hard to see how they are going to build the road without knocking down the North Stand.

The Viewpoints…

There is arguments either way for keeping the stand.  A poll last year on found that the fans opinion was very mixed with 40% wanting the stand to stay, and 48% not bothered if it went.  However, there is also an e-petition to save the stand here.

The removal of the Stand would remove 1900 seats from the stadium.  At Rangers games last season we managed just 6500 fans, so the new capacity of 8000 would be plenty for our needs.  For the club it is undoubtedly a benefit, as the away fans could be switched to the Main stand easily, and with the North Stand off the books maintenance costs would fall.  It is also beneficial to Geoff Brown and GS Brown Construction if the road is built as it will open up land for housing development.

Despite the approval of the project, there was a number of objectors, with quite a few centered on GS Brown construction, giving mixed messages throughout the process.   One objector to the plans said;

“I am concerned that there may be a conflict of interest with Mr G. S. Brown who has had commercial interest in sale of property within the vicinity as well as his interest in McDiarmid Park and his club, who also would both appear to be gaining considerable commercial benefit from this. Previous discussions with his building company have indicated his intention not to support the removal of the North stand for this project, however recent press coverage would indicate otherwise.”

Interestingly, in private, GS Brown construction has not supported the removal of the North Stand, yet in public Geoff has been pushing for its removal over the last couple of years.    However, another objector said;

Residents have been informed by PKRC that this is the only design the football club would accept out of all the many many designs & plans”

The latest comments from our Geoff are:

“I’ve met with the planners and have made it clear that the North Stand is not coming down and they have said that the road can be accommodated without the need for that to happen.   I have still to see the plans in detail I would like to think that is feasible. Apart from anything the road has to leave sufficient room for spectators to access the existing turnstiles safely.”

Maybe he’s decided the compensation isn’t enough?  Maybe Stevie has talked him out of it, promising to fill the Ormond Stand with kids instead?  Or is it more mixed messages?

Either way, the road is going ahead.  Whether it will mean the demise of the North Stand or not, we’ll have to wait and see.  The destruction will take place in the close season, so we have the stand for at least another year.  Even if the stand stays, a substantial amount of the McDiarmid property will be gone as seen from this diagram below:

The McDiarmid land is in purple, with the red lines showing where the road is planned to run. Whether the stand stays or not, a substantial amount of the property will be gone.

Without the Stand…

So what would McDiarmid Park look like without the stand?  Well, last year on the WearePerth forum, poster Real Madrid produced this fantastic work, with a model without the stand, and a model with a new, smaller stand.

Without the North Stand (copyright Real Madrid)

North Stand replaced with a smaller Shed like stand (copyright Real Madrid)