Stadium for Cornwall: private sector partners seeking public sector financial support in order to deliver the project
The possibility of a Stadium for Cornwall has been talked about for several years. Planning permission was granted in 2012 for a stadium to be built on land at Langarth close to the park and ride site. The Cornish Pirates, Truro City Football Club and Truro and Penwith College have been working together to try to bring the project to fruition but, to date, have not been able to put together sufficient finance to enable the project to be delivered exclusively from private sector funds.
In July 2015, the Strategic Planning Committee approved a planning application for residential and retail on land at West Langarth that contained, as a condition, funding to be provided for delivery of the stadium. Since then, the market for retail developments has changed to such an extent that it is now very unlikely that any large retailer would be willing to provide such a level of funding that would facilitate the delivery of the stadium. Therefore, the planning permission remains unimplemented and the stadium has made no progress. It is unlikely that any other planning application could provide the spin-off funding that the stadium project needs.
On 22 January 2018, the consortium of Cornish Pirates, Truro City FC, and Truro and Penwith College wrote to Cornwall Council requesting that the Council provides the gap funding that is needed to deliver this project. The proposal is that the private sector partners would provide £8 million and that the public sector would need to provide £6 million. The Council is talking to the government to see if they would be prepared to meet some of this gap (David Cameron had promised to provide government assistance). A business case will be brought to the Cabinet in March and, if the Cabinet is supportive, the proposal will go to Full Council in April. Full Council will have the final decision as to whether or not the capital programme should be used to provide this money.
My position on this proposal is that I am supportive of the principle of the Council putting money into the project. This is a change from what I said in 2012, when I did not support a proposal at that time to put public money into it (see Stadium May 2012). At that time, Truro City FC were in danger of being wound up by HMRC and there was no certainty on the private sector funding. I felt that, if the Council had stepped in then, we could have been entering an open-ended commitment. Now, I feel that the private sector funding is more certain, there is more clarity over what the project would entail and the Council's money would be just the final piece of the jigsaw. There are others who will take a different view of this matter and it is likely that the Full Council vote in April will be a close run affair. However, what it will do is to bring closure to this long running saga one way or the other. If Full Council supports the project, the Stadium could be built and operational within the next 2 years. If Full Council does not support the project, it will not go ahead and the matter will no longer be debated for the foreseeable future.
UPDATE 19 MARCH 2018
Following discussions with Cornwall's MPs and their lobbying of the Treasury, there is a possibility that central government may make a contribution towards the cost of the Stadium. Therefore, the paper that will be presented to the Cabinet on 28 March will be putting forward the proposal that the Council puts £3 million into the project and that a business case is submitted to the government requesting the balance of funding of £3 million. If Cabinet and Full Council support this proposal, it will then be a case of waiting for a few more weeks to see if government funding is confirmed.