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One-nil to the Arsenal: council backs stadium

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Arsenal Football Club's plans to relocate to a £250 million stadium by HOK Sport moved a step closer last week after Islington council voted to approve the controversial project.

However, the decision could still be overturned by London mayor Ken Livingstone or even called in for inquiry by the government.

At a heated five-hour planning meeting, councillors heard objections from local residents before voting 34 to seven in favour of the 60,000-seat project. The stadium is one element of a £400 million three-part development - the council also cleared two linked schemes - at Lough Road and on the site of the existing Arsenal Stadium in Highbury.

The scheme for the regeneration of Lough Road will provide 300 flats by CZWG and a sealed waste and recycling plant by Sheppard Robson. A housing development by Allies and Morrison Architects will provide 550 flats on the site of the existing stadium.

Of the 2,000 homes created,436 (22 per cent) will be affordable housing. The scheme will create 972 jobs across the three sites and a further 1,800 jobs in the boroughs of Islington, Hackney, Haringey and Camden.

HOK director Rod Sheard had been confident of winning approval for the stadium, but said the victory was 'more decisive than expected'.

London mayor Ken Livingstone will now consider whether to support Islington's decision. In a letter to the borough in October, GLA planning decisions manager Giles Dolphin said the mayor supported the application proposals 'in principle' but wanted 'further consideration of the overall balance of planning benefits'.

Project architect Christopher Lee said he would be 'surprised' if the mayor decided to order refusal. 'We have had a long dialogue with the GLA, which has been part of the design process, ' he said. 'The scheme accords with all the GLA's principles.' The mayor must respond by 9 January and the secretary of state, Stephen Byers, will respond by the end of January.

A decision on the name of the stadium is also expected next year - 'Segadome'has been tipped as a possible name, with Arsenal's main sponsor, Sega, likely to extend its branding deal. Arsenal FC hopes the stadium will open by the start of the 2004 season.

The stadium will include 60,000 seats, including 6,500 club seats and 150 private boxes.There will also be banqueting suites and educational facilities The Lough Road scheme will include 300 flats by CZWG and a sealed waste and recycling centre.There will also be community health facilities, shops and a health club Sports facilities and housing will be built to the north of the stadium. Drayton Park, the road that runs parallel to the stadium, will also be developed to include housing Arsenal's Art Deco Grade IIlisted East Stand and locally listed West Stand will be turned into residential units, while the north and south stands will be demolished and replaced with residential developments. The pitch will become a communal garden The new ground will house an Arsenal superstore, a nine-storey office building, a cafe and the Arsenal Museum. The 'Space City'housing development by CZWG will be built facing the south entrance of the stadium

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