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Ken Livingstone gunning for £400m Arsenal go-ahead

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London mayor Ken Livingstone has backed Arsenal Football Club's plans for a new stadium and more than 1,500 homes as the £400 million project rolls to its crunch planning decision next month.

Livingstone said he supported the project on three sites. The 60,000-seat arena by HOK Sport is half a mile away from housing by CZWG and Allies and Morrison Architects. Sheppard Robson has designed a nearby waste and recycling unit.

Livingstone reeled off a list of 'positive' spinoffs to the schemes. These included contributing to London's world city role, high-density housing levels, use of inner-city brownfield sites and the 'pepper potting' of affordable housing across the three areas around its existing pitch at Highbury.

But in a letter to Islington council's environmental and conservation department, GLA planning decisions manager Giles Dolphin said the mayor wanted more thought on overall planning benefits.

These included levels of affordable housing and funding of public transport improvements.

The GLA would not comment on the letter and Islington planners could not be contacted on their decision, which is due on 26 November. But a spokesman for Arsenal FC said: 'All the applications are linked and Islington knows it. For the scheme to go ahead we need consent for all proposals.'

However, he added: 'The mayor's views are something everybody has been waiting for and they are extremely helpful. The fact we have been able to provide a large package of community benefits has been acknowledged.'

He said levels of affordable housing would be between 25 and 35 per cent. 'The important thing is the mayor has recognised the issue of viability. He's not necessarily looking for us to increase what we spend but the balance of community benefits.'

Arsenal's new stadium, the nearby waste and recycling plant and most of the housing are in for detailed planning approval. This includes 550 flats designed by Allies and Morrison at the club's existing stadium. Nearly 300 flats by CZWG are up for outline consent.

The new stadium is due to open at the start of the 2004 season. Minor revisions to the scheme, such as retaining a horse chestnut tree near the stadium, were made in August, but the design remains largely unchanged.

Rod Sheard, senior principal with HOK Sport, said: 'It is logical for Ken to support this: it fits into his agenda to improve the area. We talked to CABE, interested groups and the local authority, but it will be an open vote taken by the entire council and nobody has any idea how it will go.'

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