A football club has unveiled ambitious plans to erect a new 8,000-seater stadium at the heart of a waterfront leisure and shopping destination.
National League South outfit Ebbsfleet United wants to secure the club's future on the pitch while helping re-shape its largely industrial surroundings.
The plans will pave the way to create a new multi-purpose stadium with improved facilities and function space to replace its existing Stonebridge Road home, known commercially as the Kuflink Stadium, in Northfleet.
In addition to upgrading the current ground, the club and its Irish-based partners Landmarque Property also want to create a new waterfront neighbourhood that can be enjoyed all year round.
The emerging plans, known as Northfleet Harbourside, cover a brownfield site of around 50 acres close to Northfleet’s historic harbour and the river.
It features a new retail village consisting of 225,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.
This is proposed to sit alongside a 200-bed hotel, 3,500 homes and 180,000 square foot of office space to include incubator spaces for start-ups.
Factored into the scheme are "green zones" including parkland and children's play areas.
There will also be more than three kilometres of pedestrian and cycle links through the community and along the River Thames improving connectivity to nearby developments in Gravesend town centre.
Those behind the redevelopment say it will bring up to 3,000 new jobs in the retail, leisure and service sectors, including apprenticeships during construction and end-use employment opportunities.
Fleet chief executive Damian Irvine said the plans would help secure the club’s long-term future while also helping to reshape the local area.
“We have had good ownership for a number of years which has invested heavily in the football club and a new stand here,” he explained.
“But other aspects of the ground do need movement to keep up with regulatory compliance and make it a fit for purpose stadium for all types of people to come and watch football.”
The Australian businessman said it was no secret football wastes lots of money “at all levels” and it was sustainability supporters “really yearn for”.
He added: ”That was the main thing from my time here at the club that supporters wanted.
“We’ve had ups and downs with the club where the future has been in doubt at different times.
“That’s not the case at the moment. We’ve had two-and-a-half years of a strong rebuild and things are going well.
“But we can’t avoid the fact we still need to solve problems for the future and make sure the club is never in doubt again.”
The club chief says by using the club’s land value and its “community spirit” it could work alongside property partners to deliver come exciting benefits locally.
Mr Irvine said: “It will allow us to really create a destination here for visitors but also for locals for employment and to open up the Harbour which is a great historic part of Northfleet.”
He believes this could also help solve other infrastructure problems such as an “undersupply of doctors surgeries and pharmacists and local retail services”.
“It’s an exciting time it really is but we don’t want do things in small chunks bit by bit,” he added.
“It’s far better to do it as a masterplan where as a football club we can develop something not just for ourselves but also really deliver something magnificent for the area. “
A spokesman for the Northfleet Harbourside scheme said: "We are pleased to be bringing forward this exciting proposal in Gravesham, with a new stadium for Ebbsfleet FC at the heart of the new neighbourhood.
"Stonebridge Road Stadium is a special place for the club and its supporters and, as such, we need to continue investing in its facilities to not only ensure we comply with modern safety regulations, but to also secure the long-term future of the club.
"The new venue will provide best-in-class public amenity, catering and tiered seating for the club supporters, alongside wider community benefits including a new sports medical facility.
"We are excited about our plans for Northfleet and look forward to meeting with residents, businesses and the wider community to discuss our proposals.”
The Northfleet Harbourside team will be holding a series of pre-application consultation events both online and in-person.
Subject to planning, it would take around seven to eight years to build the stadium and surrounding developments which would be completed in a series of phases.
Due to the size and scale of the project it is anticipated the club could spend a period of around one to two years groundsharing with another club locally.
People will have the opportunity to learn more about the plans and share their ideas at drop-in talks taking place at the Kuflink Stadium on Monday, July 18, Wednesday, July 20 and again on Thursday, July 21, all between 4pm-8pm.
An online webinar will also take place on Friday, July 22 from 11am-midday. For more information click here.
A planning application is expected to be lodged with Gravesham council by the end of the year.
The club was formed in 1946 from the merger of Gravesend United and Northfleet United, and was known as Gravesend & Northfleet before adopting its current name in 2007.
Thereafter, it was majority owned and operated by MyFootballClub, a web-based venture whose members voted on player transfers, budgets and ticket prices.
But – with numbers dwindling – just five years later the online society, which owned a 75% stake in the Fleet, sold their shares to current owners KEH Sports Limited, a Kuwait-based company, in 2013.
No fans were allowed in to watch matches at Stonebridge Road during the Covid pandemic, putting a large dent in the club's finances.
In their first season since fans were welcomed back, the club have transformed their matchday offering with changes to catering services and live music post-match.
Despite the struggles of the pandemic, the club still managed to stick to their plan to reduce losses year-on-year, having lost more than £1.6m in the previous campaign.
Last season, the club – which competes in the sixth tier of English football – finished third, narrowly missing out in the play-off finals in extra-time to Dorking Wanderers.