Pompey stadium plans in doubt

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The Independent Football

Portsmouth insist their dream of moving to a new waterfront stadium by 2011 is still alive despite new plans for the project looking certain to face a full public inquiry.

Bankers who have been approached to finance the £100m scheme have told the club there must be a significant retail element alongside the 36,000-seater ground and housing in order to attract the necessary cash.

Pompey, who are refusing to respond to reports that the club, managed by Tony Adams, is so crippled by debt that owner Alexandre Gaydamak is desperate to sell, have gone back to the drawing board and changed their new stadium plan to include shops, a hotel and supermarket.

But Portsmouth's city council fears the changes to the proposed site at Horsea Island would be seen as a threat to city centre businesses.

Pompey's executive chairman Peter Storrie told the Portsmouth News: "We have obviously changed plans. The credit crunch has created that. At the moment we are in discussions with the city council about the fact that we have to have retail on the site. Without that it's just simply not going to happen. We need the council to get behind us and support us on this."

Storrie still hopes a planning application will be ready to go before the council early in the new year after talks between the club and planning officials. He said: "They [the council] are not being unhelpful, but it's a change in policy for them and they need to understand fully the economic reasons why we have to have retail."

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, fears the ultimate decision will probably be taken out of the council's hands. He said: "Ministers will be unhappy about out-of-town shopping because of the effect on city centres. It will be a public inquiry and ministers will make the decision.

"We all want a new stadium, that is why we are working as closely as possible with the football club."