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Islington demands 'zero car policy' for Arsenal stadium

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Arsenal supporters could be banned from driving to matches at the Premiership club's new stadium at Ashburton Grove in north London under planning guidelines set out by Islington Council last week.

Planners have agreed to investigate the possibility of a zero-car policy for the 60,000-seat stadium, despite the fact that 42 per cent of fans travelling to Arsenal's current ground, Highbury, arrive by car. Draft planning guidelines already demanded that less than 20 per cent of fans would be allowed to use cars at Ashburton Grove but after the council received more than 600 written responses during public consultation, many voicing concerns over congestion, the restrictions will now be tightened.

Members of the planning committee, which met last week, said they have been impressed by the no-car policy at the Millennium Dome and the planners will now put pressure on Arsenal's stadium designers, hok+Lobb, to achieve car-use closer to zero than 20 per cent. Arsenal has yet to submit a planning application for the site, but one option to improve public transport links is to include a direct tunnel link from nearby Drayton Park overland train station to the new stadium.

The planning guidelines set clear limits on the stadium's use aside from football, restricting Arsenal's ability to generate revenue from concerts and other sports using the stadium. The ground will only be able to stage six non-football events each year and only three of these can be music concerts.

The council's environment director Ian Crawley called the restrictions 'tough', and warned: 'If the club decides to submit a planning application, the council is committed to involving everyone who believes their interests might be affected.'

During public consultation, the majority of the 600 respondents to questionnaires rejected the Ashburton Grove plan, and in the wake of agreeing the planning guidelines, council leaders were quick to distance themselves from Arsenal's plans.

Chief executive Leisha Fullick said: 'Islington did not invite Arsenal's interest in the Ashburton Grove site. However, as the local planning authority, the council must respond, engage with local people and business and provide planning guidance. There has been no deal on the proposal, even though the council owns much of the land at Ashburton Grove.'

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