SPECIAL REPORT: FGR's wooden stadium revealed
By Simon Hacker | 24th August 2023
Fresh details have been set out for Forest Green Rover's world-first all-wood stadium.
The nuts and bolts for Ecotricity's ambitious £100m new home at Eastington have now been lodged with Stroud District Council - and they reveal tantalising glimpses for fans of the EFL League Two club about what life will be like in their new surroundings.
Cheltenham-based Ridge and Partners, who act for Ecotricity, have updated their plans with SDC after initial permission for the stadium and associated development was given in August 2020.
In line with planning stipulations, a request for approval of this stage came against a ticking clock, with a late-August deadline for submission in order to comply with a three-year timeline for the process.
Once signed off, the work will follow a two-year timeline, although it is expected that the club, currently in EFL League Two after relegation in May, will be able to use training pitches from 2024.
Plans from award-winning Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, who is in charge of the design, show the footprint of the stadium will be 150m long and 128m wide, although shade-providing overhangs are included to mitigate such issues as fans queuing in hot weather, such measures taking the final size to 160m long and 145m wide.
The maximum height of the stadium will be a modest 19.50m, ensuring the building nestles comfortably within the surrounding landscape.
The statement said: "This is in line with Condition 9 which states that the height of the stadium shall not exceed 19.54m above the existing ground level of 21m above ordnance datum as shown on the approved existing site plan."
Lighting details, meanwhile, indicate detailed plans to ensure the building has a "lantern" effect and does not pollute the skies at night, while flooding and drainage mitigation plans are integrated with measures to recyle water and ensure the entire site is sustainable.
And in keeping with targets to have the lowest enviromental impact, the stadium will be made of wood, both structurally and cosmetically; consultants indicated that an audit of building materials for embodied carbon led to this radical decision.
Ridge and Partners said: "As such, columns and beams (made of [laminated] Glulam) as well as floor slabs (made of CLT [cross-laminated timber]) remain exposed in their natural finish. This is made possible with the development of a bespoke fire strategy for the stadium. A lightweight translucent structural membrane is being applied as a roof covering."
Interior details show that the west stand will be the main stand, akin to the club's current Candriam stand, and will house facilities for players and officials within its ground floor facilities on the ground floor, along with the main catering operations and the reception/VIP entrance on match days.
And any fears that the South Stand, beloved home to FGR's most vocal supporters, might be displaced, are quelled: the latest sketches confrim that the closest point to the action will be replicated, with fan space directly behind the goal, while away fans will also be granted access directly opposite, on the stadium's north end.
Fans have already reacted online with enthusiasm for the new revelations on their future base - not least for the intention to retain a seating plan which echoes that of the current arrangements at The New Lawn in Nailsworth.
'Pitchfork' said: "There can't be many clubs at our level with such ambitious, exciting plans for a new stadium that will be so environmentally sustainable."
Further details of transport plans are also now public.
"Main access for vehicles into the Stadium will be the new signalised crossroads junction on the A419. This junction will provide access into the Stadium. A separate bus/coach entrance and exit is proposed from Grove Lane which enables buses and coaches to enter and exit the site without using the main A419 access," said the statement.
For pedestrians and cyclists access from the A419 will be via "the proposed shared foot and cycleway and pedestrian (TOUCAN) crossings provided as part of the new signalised access junction," which is from Grove Lane in the east alongside the proposed bus gate, from Grove Lane to the northeast along the retained and improved PROW; and from the canal and Chipmans Platt (south of the A419) via the proposed shared foot and cycleway and TOUCAN crossings over the A419."
Car parking for 1,700 cars will be to the east of the site and broken into 'zones' which will have different surface treatments. On match days, home fans arriving by car will use the main entrance and be directed to specific car parks, with 10% of total allocation being the for spaces closest to the Stadium. "For busy fixtures it is expected that overspill parking in the wider car parks will be opened up," the statement said.
A match-day bus between the site and Nailsworth, Stroud and Stonehouse and for a trial period from Cam and Dursley Train Station, will also run, while visiting coach and bus layby facilities will be provided for match day coaches alongside the central pedestrian plaza to the Stadium.
General local bus services will also pick up and drop off at the proposed bus layby on the bus link to Grove Lane.
Some objection to the latest plans includes fears voiced by residents in Great oldbury that fans may use the estate and park there indiscriminately.
One resident told planners: "Existing infrastructure [is] already struggling with existing traffic and the proposed additional housing development more needs to be done to improve the existing road system in and around the proposed stadium and Great Oldbury.
Sustainability issues have also been raised: "The most sustainable solution would be to redevelop the existing site rather than new build and demolition of the existing stadium.
"Forest Green is a Nailsworth club and by moving the local would be detrimental to Nailsworth via loss of match day income and revenue and has this been considered in the process of the planning and the design as football clubs are community hubs and being torn out of its existing community."
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