Club nears backing for its first concert

LEGAL documents relating to the staging of an Elton John concert could move a step closer to being signed if councillors back plans from football club bosses.

Darlington Football Club applied to Darlington Borough Council to amend some restrictions on its home ground.

The proposals would enable the club to sign agreements for its Elton John concert in July, and ensure the ground complies with Football League regulations.

Although the club's Darlington Arena in Neasham Road has a capacity of 25,000, local planning regulations limit that to 6,000 for weekend games and 4,500 for weekday matches.

However the Football League regulations stipulate that grounds must have a minimum capacity of 5,000.

A management plan has been set up to set out the measures to be adopted if any attendance exceeds the agreed limit.

The club can also write to Darlington Borough Council if it wishes to increase the capacity for exceptional events under the terms of the management plan.

A club spokesman said: "Out of courtesy we will make our comments directly to the planning meeting."

A Football League spokesman confirmed league regulations stipulated that all existing league grounds require a minimum capacity of 5,000, which includes at least 2,000 seats.

He said if the council did not agree to the capacity being increased by 500, the matter would have to be considered by the league's board of members.

Planning officials have recommended that the bid be accepted.

A report to be put before the meeting said: "Should members agree to these changes it will enable the football club to sign the associated 106 agreement which sets out the requirements the club must undertake to stage exceptional events such as the forthcoming Elton John concert and continue to meet the requirements of the Football League in terms of staging football matches."

When the ground was first opened, it had permission for 25,000 seats as long as several stipulations were met, but limited to 10,000 until then.

Its first game in August 2003 was limited to a capacity of 11,000 but attracted an attendance of 11,600. The club has not attracted a higher crowd since for a competitive game.

In July 2006, the club was given permission to host concerts. At the same time the new limits were set for football matches.

Only a handful of games since have attracted a crowd higher than 6,000.

The application to amend the restrictions will be heard by the council's planning committee on Wednesday, June 4, at 1.30pm in the town hall.

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