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Hillsborough Legacy: 'Why Fleet needs their new home'

PUBLISHED: 17:05 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:37 23 August 2010

AS the country remembers the Hillsboro tragedy 20 years on, the boss behind the Fleet stadium project said the disaster highlights more than ever the importance of building a new ground. On Tuesday Brian Kilcullen, director of Fleet Group Development,

AS the country remembers the Hillsboro' tragedy 20 years on, the boss behind the Fleet stadium project said the disaster highlights "more than ever" the importance of building a new ground.

On Tuesday Brian Kilcullen, director of Fleet Group Development, (pictured left) revealed ambitious plans for the new Ebbsfleet United stadium on the site of the old A2.

He said it was the "last chance opportunity" for the team to move from their outdated Stonebridge Road ground.

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and many more were injured during the FA Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest in 1989 at Hillsborough. The city of Liverpool came to a standstill as its people marked 20 years since the worst football disaster in British history.

Mr Kilcullen said: "We all remember Hillsborough, and watching the pictures of it unfolding, it changed football forever.

"It struck me this week, reading the papers and watching the television, that the main outcome from the Hillsborough disaster is the need for safe, modern and comfortable stadiums. All the work we are doing towards this new stadium is just that - and it has brought it home more than ever the need to move from Stonebridge Road to a new ground.

"The stadium project is something that I have been working on for a long time now, and something that is very close to my heart.

"Our ground is old and we need to do something about it. If we are to continue up the leagues and progress, we need to move somewhere else. We believe the A2 corridor is a great site to finally achieve our aims."

After the tragedy at Hillsborough, an official inquiry was conducted by Lord Justice Taylor, blaming poor policing and inadequate facilities.

In the last 20 years football stadium and the way grounds were policed changed, including all-seater stadiums in the top leagues.Mr Kilcullen said: "Since the disaster, we have seen a lot of new stadiums built at a higher level, where a lot of funding has gone into it. But this investment is not gravitating down to the lower leagues, like ours, as much as we would like it. There are a lot of grounds like ours that do need public support whether it be from the Football Foundation, the FA or the local authority."

The announcement comes a week after both Gravesham Borough Council and Kent County Council issued a joint statement saying the site they had chosen, which would be next to a planned activity park, is not suitable.

However, on Tuesday, Mr Kilcullen maintained his advisors had conducted a detailed assessment of the potential of the A2 corridor site, that says it is possible to deliver a stadium without detracting from the activity park, and that there is enough room for both.

The site is located on an area designated Green Belt land which has planning issues, but architects are preparing a case for "Very Special Circumstance" in a bid to receive planning permission.

He added: "The location for the stadium is at the furthest point from other built development and FGD plans to consult fully with local residents.

"This is a great opportunity for all the residents of Gravesham and also Kent to have a facility that will bring many community benefits."

"It will be one of the most exciting projects locally for many years on a par with the feelgood factor that came from our FA Trophy Final success last season.

"Exhaustive searches have been carried out over many years to identify a site that is available and feasible for a stadium. This is the only site currently available and offers a last-chance opportunity. We see it as a win-win situation for all."

DO you support Fleet's bid for a new stadium on the A2 corridor? The Reporter has set up a dedicated fleetfirst@archant.co.uk e-mail address for fans and residents to register their support and send us your views on the proposal.

Next Wednesday, April 22, a meeting is planned at Ebbsfleet United Football Club, Stonebridge Road, Northfleet to discuss the future of the club.

Anyone with an interest or passion about Ebbsfleet United are invited.

Chief executive officer David Davis, Chairman John Moules, at least four members of the Society Board and MyFC and seven of the Fleet Trust Board have already confirmed attendance.

It will be in the ground's social club from 7.30pm.

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