Councillor's throw out Zaha Hadid Architects' timber football stadium

Zaha Hadid Architects has lost a planning battle over the practice's innovative proposals for an all-wooden football ground in Gloucestershire

Stroud District Council's Development Control Committee voted to refuse outline consent for the practice's 5,000-seat stadium for Forest Green Rovers Football Club.

Zaha Hadid Architects won a contest in 2016 to design a sustainable home for the League Two side, which is chaired by environmentalist Dale Vince, owner of green power firm Ecotricity.

It is claimed the practice's proposals would have created the first football stadium in the world to be entirely built from wood.

But local authorities objected, saying the scheme was contrary to the local plan, and raising concerns over the proposals, including initial and revised plans, with 'more objection than support'. Loss of countryside and impact on transport links were among the concerns.

Planning officers conceded that there was a 'conflict' between the scheme and the local development plan, but added: 'On balance, the benefits that the proposals will deliver are considered to outweight the negatives'.

"The primary policy objection to the scheme is its location outside the defined settlement limits," said officers. "While the scheme is in a countryside location...this is not an isolated location and the indicative proposed design, landscaping and planting will help integrate the scheme into the surrounding landscape."

They said Highways England had no objections, subject to mitigation, and Gloucestershire County Council's Highways department had confirmed access to the site was acceptable.

But councillors ultimately voted against officer advice and the scheme was thrown out.

Vince told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting: "The fans will be disappointed and devastated. And not just the fans. If you go around the district of Stroud, a lot of people will be disappointed.

Maybe we will appeal but that is another year of my life. How hard should I have to try to bring some progress? I do wonder if it is worth the effort."

Zaha Hadid Architects director Jim Heverin said: "We understand the club's tremendous disappointment not to receive planning. The stadium echoes Forest Green Rovers' heritage, ambition and environmental vision. With its community and supporters at its core, the design sets new benchmarks in ecologically sustainable and inclusive architecture."

Stroud District Council leader Doina Cornell questioned the decision to refuse permission for the scheme, saying: "I am disappointed that some councillors did not see all of the bigger picture and voted against it. A lot of work went in to the report, which recommended approval and explained the benefits of the development for the local area and district as a whole."

Zaha Hadid Architects, which is also designing one of the five stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, has previously said its concept for Forest Green Rovers combined 'the latest material research and construction techniques with new design approaches to [create] more ecologically sustainable and inclusive architecture'.

Every seat had been calculated to provide unrestricted sight lines to the entire field of play, maximising matchday atmosphere.

Following Vince's acquisition of the club at the start of this decade, the New Lawn Stadium, current home of the club, has received a flurry of green upgrades including solar panels, a solar-powered robot grass mower and the world's first organic football pitch. 


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