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Ebbsfleet United chief executive Damian Irvine says significance of planning permission for Northfleet Harbourside project including club’s new 8,000 capacity stadium cannot be overstated and eyes 2028 opening

Ebbsfleet chief executive Damian Irvine heralded “a great day for the club” after outline planning permission for the Northfleet Harbourside project was given the green light.

The ambitious plans to develop the area in and around the Fleet’s current Stonebridge Road ground include a new 8,000 capacity multi-purpose stadium alongside facilities that will help the club become sustainable in the long term.

The 8,000 seater stadium would form the heart of the development Picture: Northfleet Harbourside
The 8,000 seater stadium would form the heart of the development Picture: Northfleet Harbourside

It’s already been years in the making - and there’s much more work ahead - but Mr Irvine couldn’t have been happier with the decision.

“This is a massive moment in the club’s history and that’s not to overstate it,” he said.

“It’s been over two-and-a-half years of hard work to rationalise and evaluate all the previous property plans the club has had and put in place something that is comprehensive and really does set the club up for the future.

“It’s equally as massive for the Gravesham Borough Council area and the Northfleet locals, they’re our people and are the people that have been Gravesend and Northfleet forever. It’s an area that’s been underinvested in and it needs it, it needs it desperately for the future.

“The football club has been able to be the catalyst and a community lead in attracting this level of investment. It’s a great day for the club.”

The proposals also cater for commercial offices, new homes, a hotel and food and beverage outlets.

The football club is a shareholder in the project - and that’s key to the Fleet’s long-term future.

“It's 50 acres in total and the development is a genuine precinct so if you split it into three, the football club is a third of it,” explained Mr Irvine.

“It’s designed in a way that it’s not just a football stadium that is stuck in the middle of something and is isolated and just an island. It works inside out so there’s retail and leisure services, and medical services all the way around the stadium office buildings and a hotel.

“It’s a seven-day-a-week proposition and it feeds in together with the residential. It’s not just an isolated football club amongst it.

“We are a shareholder in it, that was very important. It was the number one thing that the ownership and I from the very start saw as the fundamental thing, this is for the football club.

“The club has had Stonebridge Road for a long time, it has a freehold and will always have that. We’re a partner in the scheme, it’s not just a developer coming along and buying our land promising things.

“We’re at the table, we’re directors of it in terms of the football club and we retain the stadium portion which will be £40million of build costs. That’s what the club gets at the end of it, fully freeholded and ownership of that going forward into eternity.

“The conference and events spaces, the revenue-raising spaces within the stadium will be ours as well to manage going forward.”

Ebbsfleet United expect to leave their Stonebridge Road ground in the summer of 2026. Photo: Northfleet Harbourside
Ebbsfleet United expect to leave their Stonebridge Road ground in the summer of 2026. Photo: Northfleet Harbourside

As for timeframes, Ebbsfleet are expected to remain at their current Stonebridge Road ground for the next two campaigns.

That means they will be hoping to secure a groundshare for the 2026/27 season and could potentially play their first game in their new stadium in 2028 - but that’s still to be confirmed.

“We’ll know within the next six months as to a firm timeframe,” said Mr Irvine. “We’ll always have to go to the outside time frame as we won’t be moving grounds mid-season obviously.

“At this stage, we’re uncertain. It’s possible but unlikely that we would be moving out and ready to build next summer.

“It’s more likely to be the summer of 2026 that we would relocate and then it’s approximately a two-year completion for that. But roughly four to five years we would expect to be back home and opening a new stadium.

“The last thing you want to do is have uncertainty. It’s unlikely to say any construction of this level is going to be finished early and done before its planned date, it’s likely to push out a little so we’re being very realistic on that.”

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