FC United of Manchester has been given planning permission to build its own ground at Ten Acres Lane in Newton Heath - the original birthplace of Manchester United.
The planning application for the £3.5million development was given the go ahead by Manchester City Council’s planning committee today (Thursday).
The decision means FC United - formed in 2005 by Manchester United supporters in the wake of the Glazer takeover at Old Trafford - will be able to start building the 5,000-capacity stadium as soon as it has the funding in place.
Club general manager Andy Walsh said the planning approval was a huge step forward and hoped it would be a further boost for the club’s pioneering Community Shares scheme.
"This is a massive step forward for our aim of being in our own ground within two years and it is a major vote of confidence in us as a club. So much work has gone into getting us to this position and we’re very grateful for the council’s support. The planners’ glowing report emphasises the real community benefit that the development will deliver," he said.
"But the onus is now on us to deliver the funding package - without them, we’ll be going nowhere. Our unique Community Shares scheme has raised more than £600,000 of investment since the end of September with further pledges of at least £200,000, which is a magnificent response so far.
"However, we need to secure £1.5 million in Community Share purchases for Ten Acres Lane. So I would urge anyone interested in helping us get there to please get their investment in to the club.
"In the meantime we are of course thrilled that our plans for Ten Acres Lane have met with the approval not only of the council but also of local residents, whose views and concerns we have taken very much on board in coming up with our plans for our own home."
The decision was made after planners recommended the application for approval, stating in a report to the planning committee: "This is a very much welcomed development within the Newton Heath ward and the city, which would provide a high quality sporting facility for professionals and the community.
"The facility currently at this site would be significantly improved and enhanced to provide an excellent facility for all within the wider neighbourhood, and would introduce into the area a community-based football club that has working with local residents, schools and community groups at the core of its constitution.
"FC United has worked closely with the city council to provide the best quality scheme possible on this site with the lowest possible impact on local residents and the local highways network.
"Therefore this is considered to be a fantastic opportunity for Newton Heath and the city in the continued aim to regenerate this locality and assist in the overall improvement of health and well being of the residents."
Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Mike Amesbury, said: "We were pleased to see the club work closely with the council and residents to develop proposals for a stadium that will have significant local community benefits. We hope the club will be in a position soon to start work on the site."
The news will be an additional boost for FC United in a busy week as the club prepares to travel to the south coast for its second round FA Cup tie versus Brighton on Saturday.
FC United is the first football club to issue community shares. Investors can purchase £1 shares to a value ranging from £200 up to £20,000. The main aim of the shares is to provide investors with a social return by funding the football and community objectives of FC United, but the club’s business plan also provides for potential financial returns for shareholders.
Shareholders will not receive interest payments or be able to withdraw their investments for the first three years after the club moves into the new stadium, but it aims to pay small amounts of interest after that date. FC United’s one member one vote system will remain unaffected by the share issue.
The offer is open to individuals aged 16 and over, and businesses. All shareholders must be members of FC United but non-members can join at the time of application. The offer closes on 30 November 2010.