An riba big name has pitched into the long-running saga of Arsenal Football Club's possible move by saying he thinks King's Cross will be the club's new home.
Owen Luder, former riba president and avid Arsenal fan, said the 'Gunners' would be playing in a 70,000-seat, multi-purpose stadium in King's Cross within a decade. He ruled out Wembley as too inaccessible and counter to the idea of a national stadium. Other sites mentioned - Alexandra Palace, Crystal Palace and Finsbury Park - were also too far out and could prove planning nightmares, he said. Arsenal's present ground at Highbury, North London, seats around 35,000.
'I hope the club stays put, but it seems unrealistic,' said Luder. 'Top clubs that also compete in Europe need grounds with at least 50,000 seats. King's Cross is neutral territory: a site near Tottenham or Chelsea is out. The station area is also a major convergence of public transport. The only thing against King's Cross is it could take a long time for people to reach agreement. I think in five years' time the club will still be at Highbury, but in ten it will be at King's Cross.'
Luder, a share- and season-ticket holder, criticised planners for miring soccer clubs in red tape. 'The greatest problem clubs face is the lack of a good planning system. They allocate industrial land for industrial, shopping and residential use. Everything but football grounds. Each planning authority should have allocated sites instead of leaving clubs that want to rebuild with huge planning fights,' he said.
He was responding to a confidential report by surveyor Healey & Baker that suggested possible moves. But Arsenal itself stuck rigidly to its wait-and-see line, insisting that it is considering redevelopment as well as relocation. Its Art Deco East Stand is listed Grade II.