HOPES of saving Darlington Football Club from extinction have been dealt a further blow after talks between the landowner and local council ended in stalemate.
It was hoped yesterday’s meeting between the stadium owners and Darlington Borough Council would help resolve the issue of allowing development on the land surrounding the arena – which could help fund the cash-strapped club.
However, last night, in a joint statement, it was stated that any major commercial development – such as a supermarket – was unlikely to get planning permission.
While both parties have agreed to maintain a dialogue between each other, the news will come as a bitter blow to fans who are trying to prevent the club from going into liquidation.
Darlington FC has been in administration since the beginning of the month after its owner, Raj Singh, decided he could no longer keep covering its running costs.
Unless someone emerges in the next few days who is prepared to invest a sum of between £300,000 and £500,000 to keep the club running until the end of the season there are genuine fears that the club will cease to exist by the date of its next match with Fleetwood on January 21.
Yesterday’s meeting also tried to solve the problem of a covenant on the stadium site, stemming from when the council sold the land to former chairman George Reynolds.
The convenant states that the land can only be used for football purposes and if the site is sold for anything else, 75 per cent of any increase in the value of the land would go to the council.
However, in last night’s statement, the stadium owners, Philip Scott and Graham Sizer, and Darlington Borough Council said that because of the problems with obtaining planning permission, the issue of the covenant was moot.
The statement said: “One option discussed was whether the existing stadium could be demolished and replaced with a smaller ground which was more economical for the club to run.
“However, to meet the cost of this, there would need to be significant capital gained from developing the site.
“It was agreed that the only commercially viable option would be to develop a large superstore or retail development on the site. However, this would be against local and national planning policy and would be highly unlikely to get planning permission. A large-scale development of this nature and in this location would have a negative impact on trade in the town centre.
“The removal or retention of the covenant on the land was not seen as an issue as there was no viable development discussed which would increase the value of the land.
“Nevertheless, the council and the landowners are continuing to have dialogue with any interested parties to see what possibilities there may be.”
Yesterday, it was revealed that Mr Scott and Mr Sizer had made an offer of £50,000 to keep the club running on the condition that an identical amount raised by the Darlington FC Supporters Trust was also made available.
A statement from the trust said it had not received any formal offer, but would consider any idea that was sustainable and that would safeguard the future of the club.
Yesterday, The Northern Echo made numerous phone calls to the trust, but it was unavailable for comment.