STADIUM WILL BE READY ON TIME

Temporary seats planned after project is delayed

FALKIRK Football Club's new stadium WILL be ready for top-flight football in time to satisfy top flight criteria.

That was the defiant message from those behind the project as it was confirmed the second stand at Westfield WON'T be ready by March 31.

The Falkirk Herald understands the club now intends to satisfy the SPL requirement for 10,000 seats mainly by temporary stands.

Health and Safety Executive concerns about the close proximity of Grangemouth's petrochemical industries delayed the East Stand at Westfield.

The issue is now looking increasingly positive, but an HSE spokesman confirmed a solution is not expected imminently – and a senior source close to the Westfield project GUARANTEED the stand will not be ready.

It is believed the new plan is for the club to erect two temporary stands, each housing 3000 people, behind each goal. The existing West Stand will hold 4200 people, pushing the total past the magical – but ludicrous – 10,000 total demanded by the SPL.

Outline planning permission already exists for 10,000 seats at the Westfield site and the temporary seating solution is not expected to face any problems.

Martin Ritchie, who heads joint venture company Falkirk Community Stadium Limited, said: ''The HSE issue does not affect the number of seats in the stadium. We are already looking at a large part of the seating being temporary to meet the March 31 deadline.

''We would need planning permission for that but it should be okay, as it falls within the existing outline planning consents.''

Positive

But Mr Ritchie added: ''We are optimistic that these boundaries will be changed. The news in the past few weeks has certainly been very positive.''

A source close to the project said: ''Temporary stands are not ideal but will be okay in the short term. It is crucial that, in the long-term, we have quality stands with facilities in them to generate cash for the club. We can't let Falkirk become another Dundee, with spiralling debt.

''And we want Falkirk to have the best facilities outside Hampden and Ibrox – and nothing like Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld or McDiarmid Park in Perth.''

The Falkirk Herald understands good news is on the horizon about the planned Technical Training Centre of Excellence within the East Stand. Reports will shortly go before the boards of Falkirk College and the TTCE company and an announcement is expected by December 10.

A breakthrough between Falkirk Football Club and the Health and Safety Executive 'blast zone' issue is still some way off, but both sides are reporting positive progress.

The HSE has even gone on record, admitting that it would be ''illogical'' for Falkirk Council to knock back permission for a second stand – given the close proximity of another stand.

But HSE principal inspector Alistair McNab has warned that, given the close proximity of Grangemouth's petrochemical industry, an emergency plan will have to be developed when the stadium gets the go-ahead.

In a letter to Falkirk Council, Mr McNab said: ''While the probability is low of a major accident occurring involving toxics, with the right wind direction at the same time as a near full capacity stadium, the consequences would be severe.''

brian.marjoribanks@falkirkherald.co.uk