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Forest Green chief responds to stadium critics

Forest Green Rovers chairman Dale Vince has hit back at critics of the safety and green credentials of the English League Two football club’s plan for a new wooden stadium.

Speaking as a guest on BBC Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine show, Vince answered questions about the high-profile project, specifically doubts over the safety of building a stadium fashioned entirely from wood.

“Seventy-five per cent of the carbon footprint of sports stadia is embedded in the materials they are made from,” said Vince. “Wood is just a good old fashioned building material. Modern timber is engineered to be fire retardant.

“Wood is safer in a fire than steel because steel collapses at high temperatures. Wood simply chars away to destruction, but that takes a long time. Stadia today are designed to be evacuated in a handful of minutes so nobody gets trapped if there is a fire.”

Forest Green has become known as the world’s most eco-friendly football club and last month was granted outline planning permission for the new 5,000-seat stadium. The club’s plans were initially rejected by Stroud District Council in June, with Vince labelling the verdict as “farcical” at the time.

In August, the club resubmitted the proposal to local planners and the council’s planning committee last month voted in favour of the designs. The Eco Park stadium has been designed by Zaha Hadid and will be located off Junction 13 of the M5 motorway.

Vince also responded to a question on the green credentials of a project that would require thousands of fans needing transport to the stadium. He said: “Much is made of that and it probably is the worst aspect of live sport. It’s small in the scheme of things.

“Home fans make up the bulk of audiences. It’s focused on as a green Achilles heel of sport but I don’t think it needs to be. There’s much we can do to green up sport.”

Forest Green has played at the 5,100-capacity The New Lawn since 2006. The club selected Zaha Hadid Architects to design the new stadium in November 2016, when it was still a non-league outfit, and has spent years working on a project that ties in with its eco-friendly business model.

Image: Zaha Hadid