LOFT calls for North Stand
Leyton Orient Fans' Trust (LOFT) is calling for Leyton Orient FC to begin immediate work on the North Stand, irrespective of the decision by the local council on Tuesday 3 October 2006 to reject a revised plan for the stand that incorporated flats behind both ends of the ground.
The background to this decision is as follows:
- Planning permission was given for a North Stand of approximately 1,400 seats as part of the 2003 planning application for the redevelopment of the ground;
- The revised application is concerned mainly with the building of flats, and makes only minor modifications to the Stand to allow for those flats to be built behind it; the capacity has been reduced by approx. 100 seats by reducing the height of the stand slightly, and the proposed moat at the front of the stand has been removed;
- The cost of building the North Stand was met by selling the land behind the South and (proposed) North Stands for £1.25m to Samuel Beadie (Leyton) Limited ('SBLL') - a consortium of which Orient chairman Barry Hearn is one-half partner - at the club EGM held on 8 May 2006;
- At that EGM, shareholders of the club - which include LOFT - were not advised that planning permission for the flats was a prerequisite for the stand to be built. Indeed, Mr Hearn seemed pessimistic about permission being given, and said that he and his partners in SBLL were "taking a punt" in buying the land, in the same way that SBLL "took a punt" in buying the office space in the West Stand undercroft (an investment that SBLL will make a reasonable return on, according to Mr Hearn).
LOFT's view is that it is disingenuous to say the least that "the future of Leyton Orient Football Club in the London Borough of Waltham Forest has been thrown into doubt", as stated on the club's official website. The club has a near 1,000-year lease on the Brisbane Road site, and the council has not rejected the North Stand in and of itself, instead it has rejected the proposal for the flats which were the part of the revised application.
SBLL is entitled to appeal the decision of the council, as is its prerogative, but it should not be Leyton Orient's concern that an investment company half-owned by its chairman "took a punt" on buying land that did not have planning permission for building flats.
LOFT calls upon Mr Hearn to treat his personal investment in SBLL as separate to the long-term wellbeing of Leyton Orient Football Club, and to commence works on the North Stand under the original planning permission. It is time for Mr Hearn to give Orient fans the four-sided ground they have been promised for several years, and to commence work immediately.