A GIANT step nearer towards securing a bright new future for Newport Football Club has been taken after major plans to build a retail park on their ground were lodged with Isle of Wight planners.

The plans for a two-phase development of the club’s St George’s Park stadium were lodged by its owners, South Coast Leisure (SCL), about three weeks ago and, barring any unforeseen snags with them, they will go before Isle of Wight Council planners within the next 15 weeks.

Should planners rubber-stamp the proposals, work to build a new state-of-the-art sporting facility for Newport would get underway almost immediately on land between East Cowes Road and Fairlee Road, to the north west of the Racecourse roundabout.

Isle of Wight County Press:

St George's Park, the current home of Newport Football Club.  FILE

Realisation of the project would end years of uncertainty for the club and its fans.

SCL will ensure the club is able to fulfil its fixtures while the new stadium is being constructed.

Club chairman Tony Wake, also a director of SCL, was delighted with the plans and was optimistic of a bright future for Newport FC.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m very pleased the plans are with planning now. I hope we can move the club forward as quickly as possible,” said Mr Wake.

“If all is agreed and signed off, we hope to get work started on the new ground straight away, building it in tandem with the retail park, but of course we are in the hands of the planning department.

“We aim to keep Newport playing at St George’s Park for the rest of the season and possibly into the start of the next.

“We will make every endeavour to get the club playing at the new ground next season.

“It will be not just be the first team which will use the ground. It will be a sporting hub for the whole community to use.

“It is something I feel very passionate about.”

The plans for the new football ground, with grandstands, floodlights and a clubhouse, were announced exactly a year ago and have already been approved by Isle of Wight Council planning officers.

The site, however, would not be exclusively for the football club’s use.

It would also provide a community facility for other clubs — to be all-inclusive of age and welcoming for those with disabilities.

The clubhouse would include changing facilities, store rooms, offices, a bar and function room, directors’ and meeting rooms, toilets and a match-viewing room, specifically designed for disabled people.

Terraced, covered seating for 150 spectators would be provided on the eastern side of the building.

It is clear that the future of Newport Football Club is unsustainable at its current location. A move to the Racecourse offers us an exciting new future at a purpose-built stadium in which we can flourish.

The football club's supporters' trust welcomed the application.

In a statement, they said: "We sincerely hope the current application for St George's Park is approved so we can begin that journey.

"SCL have been good friends to Newport Football Club over many years and we have every confidence they will continue to do what’s best for the club in the transition period between leaving St George’s Park and settling in to the new state-of the-art stadium.

"We know they are working hard — and exploring a number of options — to ensure we meet all of our fixture commitments and maintain our Sydenhams Wessex League status up to, and after we move in to our new home."

I think everyone at the club is now geared up for the move to the Racecourse and we hope a positive decision from the council will be a turning point in the club’s recent fortunes.

A car park for 80 cars and two coaches is also included, with overflow parking, with the site accessible from Whippingham Road.