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Fleet boss: 'Why are we being abandoned?'

PUBLISHED: 17:23 26 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:01 23 August 2010

FURIOUS: Brian Kilcullen

FURIOUS: Brian Kilcullen

THE Fleet boss tasked with securing a new stadium for the club blasted council bosses for their lack of support as the quest for a new home ground to a halt, writes Ed Riley. Ebbsfleet United s hopes for an 8000 capacity stadium on the site of the old A2

THE Fleet boss tasked with securing a new stadium for the club blasted council bosses for their lack of support as the quest for a new home ground to a halt, writes Ed Riley.

Ebbsfleet United's hopes for an 8000 capacity stadium on the site of the old A2 are in ruins this week, just a year after they roared to a historic Wembley final victory a year ago.

Kent County Council (KCC) approved plans for an activity park at the site, which will feature a British Cycling Training centre, a skate park and an equestrian route.

It will be the UK's biggest cycling park - three times bigger than the Olympic Velopark in Hackney - and is receiving substantial backing from British Cycling including a £600,000 grant.

But the Reporter can reveal the club is currently in negotiations to buy its current ground from landowners Land Securities for £500,000, when it goes up for auction next month.

A post on the MyFC website, owners of the club, said on Tuesday that Land Securities would consider selling Stonebridge Road to the club for the fee, if they receive no higher offers.

Duncan Holt, current chairman of Ebbsfleet United wrote on the website: "If we do want to do something, we have to act quite quickly, they understand our business model and are prepared to work with us."

The post says the club currently rents the land from Land Securities for £5200 a year, which is waived in good faith and open for the next 16 years.

Members of MyFC have been asked to submit their views on the website to discuss the proposal.

Brian Kilcullen, director of Fleet Group Development has now called on both KCC and Gravesham Borough Council to support the club in finding another suitable site, and to invest money into the current stadium at Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, if they are forced to remain at the current ground.

He said: "This would have been a fantastic site for a community stadium. We have been looking for a long time now and the A2 was our last possible site.

"It is now up to KCC and Gravesham Borough Council to work with us, rather than against us.

"We have got three options, and they both need to work with us on it. They either need to reverse their decision, and decide whether they can get a stadium on the Activity land, they need to help us find a new site within Gravesham quickly, one that we have not found so far and nor have they, or they need to find a large amount of money to redevelop Stonebridge Road as a community stadium."

Mr Kilcullen ruled out a possible ground share, and also said there were no plans to move out of the borough. Landlords of the Stonebridge Road site are putting the site up for auction next month, but the club currently have 16 years left on the lease, and are protected for that length of time.

Mr Kilcullen added: "We need to take stock and decide what to do next. Absolute worst case scenario is that we stay at Stonebridge, but we can only do that if we get sufficient money together to stay at the ground.

"Kent County Council has managed to get together 8 to 10 million pounds worth of public money for bicycle park, so perhaps they can do something for a community stadium?

"This is not just about Ebbsfleet having a ground, the idea was that we would turn it into a community facility. It would be of benefit to the whole of the borough. In a way, seeing that KCC and Gravesham have stopped us from looking at the A2 corridor site, the onus is on them to come to us and help us find a solution to our problems."

Mr Kilcullen also claimed to have been asked by KCC in May that for the council to consider the stadium being incorporated into the plans the club should make a financial contribution to the activity park.

The club did not submit an offer, but Mr Kilcullen said: "It appears money might have won the day, but not the fact that the people of Gravesham might want a community stadium."

Mike Snelling, leader of Gravesham Borough Council said: "Ever since I became leader about 22 months ago, we have been having regular meetings with Ebbsfleet United to try and find alternative sites.

"We are continuing that search. We do not have the ability to put hard cash into a football ground. What we can do is help the club lever money from other sources.

In a joint statement from KCC and Gravesham Borough Council they highlight a number of issues for their reason not to support the football stadium.

It says they do not consider the club a "sound business venture partner" because the club is projected to continue making losses in the future, and believe there would be no immediate funds to finance the stadium.

They also believe the club will need more than four hectares of space to build the stadium which they say would "significantly compromise the activity park."

The councils state that they have been given little information concerning the number of parking spaces needed by the club, and believe it is likely they would be apposed by the Highways Agency.

They add that KCC are "keen to ensure the Fleet do find a new home," and will arrange for a meeting with council representatives to discuss the way forward.

What do you think? Write to michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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