The AJ has discovered that Arup Associates is the mystery designer behind Solihull's bid to build the national football stadium.Details of the bid will not be unveiled until tomorrow, but an Arup insider said the 85,000-seat stadium would feature a 'very original' design and that the structure would be able to accommodate uses other than football.
Patrick Carter, the man appointed by ministers to draw up a detailed study on the options available, was due to submit his report more than a week ago (AJ 16/23.8.01), but at the last minute he asked for extra time. Government officials and promoters of the West Midlands option are now certain that the report will be presented this Friday, meaning that a final decision will not be taken until October.
The report is to be delayed by at least another seven days because culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell will be on holiday next week.
Promoters of the Midlands bid, sponsored by both Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Birmingham City Council, believe that the Arup scheme will undercut the Foster and Partners/ HOK Lobb design for Wembley.
Birmingham City Council's national stadium project spokeswoman Carol Austin said: 'You only have to look at the fact that our site is adjacent to an airport and that all the traffic infrastructure is already there, so our costs are inevitably going to be less than Wembley.'
But London mayor Ken Livingstone, an ardent supporter of the Wembley scheme, has again waded into the debate with an attack on the transport infrastructure around the alternative site, near the NEC. He said: 'Wembley has public infrastructure in place [which is] ready to be upgraded, rather than building on green belt land and relying on road widening.'
Livingstone was speaking at the launch of a new set of figures showing that the general public wanted the national football stadium to remain in London. The figures are at odds with the results of a survey released last week by the Football Supporters' Association, which appeared to demonstrate that fans preferred the stadium to go to the Midlands. But Livingstone attacked the internet-based FSA survey for being 'open to abuse'.
In the FSA survey, 67 per cent of respondents said they would like to see a new national football stadium built in the Midlands; in the newer survey launched by Livingstone, 46 per cent backed Wembley, while 30 per cent remained undecided.