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Two-nil to the Arsenal... now club eyes hat-trick from Byers

Secretary of state Stephen Byers will decide whether to call in Arsenal FC's £400 million stadium and redevelopment project by today. He is the final obstacle to the scheme following its clearance by London mayor Ken Livingstone last week.

The three-part development (AJ 20/27.12.01) is comprised of the £250 million HOK Sportdesigned stadium; the regeneration of Lough Road with housing by CZWG and a sealed waste and recycling plant by Sheppard Robson; and housing by Allies and Morrison on the site of the existing stadium. Islington council voted 34 to seven in favour of the new stadium in December.

Arsenal director Daniel Fiszman, who spearheaded the stadium plan along with the club's former managing director Ken Friar, said: 'I'm delighted with the mayor's decision to support the plans, which is a recommendation against a public inquiry.' However, he warned: 'If there is to be a public inquiry it could set the whole thing back by two years and we would seriously have to think again.'

A spokesperson for the DTLR confirmed that the application was received by the secretary of state on 28 December and that a decision would be made by 17 January, unless article 14 was invoked, which would extend the deadline.

A number of revisions were made to the original scheme in an effort to bring Ken Livingstone on side - affordable housing was increased to 31 per cent of the total and the club increased its contribution to local transport improvement from £5.7 million to £7.6 million. The tactic worked and will also make the scheme appealing to Byers.

'I would have refused permission for Arsenal's original proposal, ' said Livingstone. 'But my planners have worked closely with the club, Islington council, Transport for London and the London Development Agency, and turned an unacceptable scheme into a world-class scheme that London can be proud of.'He added that the project will result in £60 million of investment to the local area.

The club has already expressed its optimism, stating that work on the new stadium is scheduled to begin soon after the start of next season. The stadium is due to open for the 2004-05 Premiership campaign.

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