The proposed plan for a new stadium

Barnet set for planning dispute over proposed return to Underhill

Barnet FC face a fight with planning officers to get approval for a new stadium near their original Underhill home, after plans were released on Monday.

The Bees have played at The Hive, in Edgware, since moving away from Barnet in 2013 amid a lease dispute with the council.

However new plans for their return have received widespread support from fans and feature a new 6,000-8,000-seater stadium, training pitches and other sports facilities, as well as new drop-off zones aimed to alleviate traffic congestion with the school housed on the site of the old home ground.

Barnet chairman Tony Kleanthous said in a statement: “I am delighted to announce our exciting plans to end our ten-year exile in Harrow and bring Barnet FC back to Barnet.

“Our initial three-year tenure at The Hive was extended indefinitely by Harrow Council but I always felt that if it were possible, then Barnet FC should return to the home from where it took its identity.

“During the long months of Covid, I busied myself with trying to find a way to bring the club back home and met with Barnet Council to ask for their support in locating a suitable site on which I could build a new stadium.

“We hope that we will receive the full support of Barnet FC fans, local residents and the Council so that we can bring our incredible club back to where it belongs.”

The plan for the wider side (Image credit: Barnet FC)

Despite assurances in Kleanthous’ statement that the football club’s consultants were engaging directly with planning officers, Barnet Council has cast doubt on the likelihood of approval.

A spokesperson said: “While it would be good to welcome Barnet FC back to their home borough, the club has to be realistic about the planning challenges for situating a stadium.

“To date, we have been unable to move forward as they are yet to propose an acceptable site.

“In our effort to find them a home in Barnet, several sites have been looked at but were considered to be unsuitable.

“The Underhill location is highly unlikely to be acceptable because it is on greenbelt land.

“Justifying any development in the greenbelt would require a ‘very special circumstances’ case to be made, which demonstrates that the benefits of development outweigh the detriment, and it is very hard to see how this case could be achieved.

“In addition, a stadium on the Underhill site will cause additional pressure on local roads and highways.

“However, our doors are always open to examine other options.”

There has been subsequent speculation over the future of The Hive, which also plays host to Barnet’s women’s team, London Bees, and has previously seen rugby league side London Broncos share the ground.

It has served as a training ground for a number of major international and club sides visiting the capital and could be leased or sold as part of the potential move.

Featured image credit: Barnet FC

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