Since 2013, former National League North competitors Worcester City have been playing their games outside the city of Worcester. Their ground, St. George’s Lane, which a few ground hoppers may remember, was a stone’s throw away from the cathedral city’s centre. It was sold for housing development by the club to fund a new stadium that never quite came to be, owing to one reason or another. Worcester City have since played their home games at Aggborough, famed for its pies and for being the home of Kidderminster Harriers, and now further afield at Bromsgrove Sporting’s pleasantly archaic Victoria Ground. Despite the magnificent pies at Aggborough and the romantic notions of a ‘traditional’ football ground in Bromsgrove, neither ever felt quite like home.
The WCFC Supporters’ Trust, originally along with the club, but now as sole applicants, have a planning application in progress for a stadium back in Worcester; roughly a mile away as the crow flies from the site of the original ground.
The WCFC Supporters’ Trust are striving to set the foundations, figuratively and literally, for a community owned Worcester City at a site in Worcester known as Perdiswell. Despite the Trust’s best efforts, the community ownership of Worcester City can diplomatically be considered still very much as a work in progress, whilst the latter has been tenaciously pursued by the determined members of the Trust and those that have pitched in to help the progress.
The land identified and intended for the planning application is council-owned and has been designated in local development plans to be used for sports, yet is currently underused in such a capacity. The Trust’s vision for the space is a modest community sports stadium along with a floodlit 3G pitch which would complement the neighbouring newly developed swimming pool facility by essentially creating a much-needed centre for sports excellence in Worcester. The development is also intended to contribute to the city by becoming an asset to benefit Worcester by providing facilities for the wider community, instilling the essence of what a football club should stand for. In addition, the design of the stadium has been carefully considered to ensure it does not significantly alter the character of the surrounding area.
As with any planning application, there is always opposition because people become concerned with what the outcome would be. Those that do oppose the application seem to misunderstand what is trying to be achieved,with many comparing what is proposed to Leicester City’s King Power Stadium or Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, worrying that 40,000 raucous 80s-esque hooligans will be turning up week on week. The reality of the situation is markedly different. 600 or so leisurely supporters will attend once a fortnight, with only minimal traffic owing to the close proximity of the site to the centre of Worcester with easy access by foot or cycle.
Although the application has encountered peaks and troughs along the way, it is now approaching an appeal which is being dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate, keeping political motives away from the decision. The Trust is consequently confident that the right decision will be made.
It must be remembered that this planning application is not solely intended to just benefit a football club. It is intended to begin a new era in the history of football in Worcester. Worcester City can become an ambassador for the city in showing what can be accomplished when a shared vision is collectively worked towards with a view to achieving something larger than just football. Where the football club can contribute to the city to benefit the community and become an integral pillar within it.
The support for the appeal has been very encouraging and humbling to see. It is unfortunate that not all are behind the application appreciating its potential, but its eagerly anticipated approval will bring revitalised hope for a community owned football club in Worcester which will contribute to the culture and future of the city.