Design & Development

County Council prepares for MoU on Forest stadium

The City Ground in Nottingham, England

Featured image credit: Arran Bee/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size

Nottinghamshire County Council has backed a motion to continue to explore potential stadium options with Nottingham Forest, with a Memorandum of Understanding expected to be agreed with the Premier League football club.

It was revealed last week that the County Council was set to discuss a potential alternative site for a stadium amid a dispute between the club and Nottingham City Council over its future at the historic City Ground.

This meeting was held yesterday (Thursday), with County Council members backing a motion which read: “This council resolves to continue to explore options with stakeholders at Nottingham Forest Football Club and others to try to secure the future of the club. This may include whether there are any potentially suitable county council sites which may be marketed for disposal in future.”

The Nottingham Post said yesterday’s meeting confirmed that Forest has “shown an interest” in developing on land away from the City Ground, with the County Council employing specialist agents to advise on the matter.

Councillor Keith Girling, the County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “Officers and myself have had several meetings with Nottingham Forest and a memorandum of understanding will be coming to me to sign… Let me make this very clear, we were approached by Nottingham Forest.”

The Independent Alliance opposition group has suggested land near Toton as an alternative site for a potential new stadium. The site had been due to host a rail hub serving the HS2 high-speed railway project, the Nottinghamshire part of which has been axed.

Councillor David Martin, who brought forward yesterday’s motion and is a Forest season ticket holder, said: “This could be a major boost for the economies of the immediate surrounding towns in Broxtowe such as Beeston and Stapleford… I do personally think people would still go into the city too and then make their way over because there would be nearly twice as many of them with the ability to buy tickets in a bigger stadium.

“This is the case in Manchester, as fans stay and eat and drink in the city centre before heading down to the Etihad Stadium in East Manchester. Whether you are a football fan or not – it’s clear that the social and economic impact of Nottingham Forest benefits everyone in our wider region.”

Girling added: “We are treating them (Forest) like any other developer who shows an interest in any of our land and property. If we get to the point where there could be an agreement, we will do what we always do and put it through the proper process to advance the opportunity.”

Forest last month warned that it could look to relocate from the City Ground amid the dispute which concerns the lease deal for the stadium. Forest has long-held plans to redevelop what has been its home since 1898, but has been frustrated in recent years by bureaucratic red tape. The club is currently operating under a 50-year contract struck in 2011 for the prime real estate on the banks of the River Trent.

Talks over an extension to the lease deal are said to have stalled over the City Council’s demands the current £250,000 (€291,000/$314,000) rent is increased to around £1m per year. This comes with the government having last month appointed commissioners to help run the City Council after the authority declared itself effectively bankrupt.

Meanwhile, Forest has stressed that it needs to secure an extension to the lease, or potentially buy the freehold to the land, to commit to investment in redeveloping the City Ground. 

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, County Council leader Ben Bradley said, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We all know how important Nottingham Forest is to the area, but it’s not our decision.

“The club has asked us ‘If we can’t find anywhere to stay, can you work with us to find an alternative?’ We have exchanged correspondence. There is nothing more widely to discuss at this stage. I fully expect Nottingham Forest to come to a resolution with the city council and for this to go away.”

The dispute surrounding the City Ground comes after it was reported last month that Forest is working on plans to expand the stadium’s capacity to 40,000, from its current level of 29,550.

In June 2019, it was announced that Forest would be able to press ahead with redevelopment work at the City Ground after securing a new 250-year lease at the stadium. The City Council agreed to grant the club the lease following “extensive negotiations” over a planned expansion to 38,000 seats.

The current 50-year agreement was due to be superseded by the 250-year extension, however the deal was never completed, with Forest instead continuing to operate under the 50-year contract struck in 2011.