Building control: football stadium

Making the move

15 July 2016

London Borough of Haringey Head of Building Control Bob McIver talks to Barney Hatt about Tottenham Hotspur Football Club's new stadium

How did the borough first become involved with the new stadium?

Haringey Building Control has been working with the club for many years on ground licensing and has chaired the safety advisory group. The Haringey team became involved in the proposals for a replacement stadium in 2008 when the club originally approached the authority for planning permission. We had numerous pre-application discussions with the then designers over how to meet the Building Regulations and resolve issues arising from the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, more commonly known as the Green Guide.

The club first received planning permission in 2010, and has been working with the council ever since on delivery of the project. This included completion of phase 1 – a new learning centre and Sainsbury’s supermarket – in 2014. Following a change in the stadium design team in 2015 and a new planning application, Haringey Building Control has continued to work closely with the main contractor, MACE, on delivery of the stadium. Planning permission for the new stadium, next door to the current White Hart Lane ground, was granted by Haringey in December 2015.

What have been the sustainability and environmental impacts?

The new ground is on an area where the first few metres of the subsoil is gravel. The contractors have excavated, washed and graded the gravel, and are re-using it. It has been more successful than they originally thought because they have actually got more gravel than they need. The major benefit has been that the project has not needed lorries to go to landfill, nor had as many concrete lorries coming in.

What considerations have there been in relation to the surrounding infrastructure?

The council is well advanced with ambitious plans for the regeneration of the North Tottenham Area. This area benefits from work with the Greater London Authority on the "opportunity area" as well as detailed strategies for North Tottenham and an emerging local plan. The stadium will be an important part of that future ambition, alongside proposals for a makeover at White Hart Lane Overground station to increase capacity and quality, and a competition for a new development partner at "High Road West" (an area to the west of the stadium).

Potential works are also in the pipeline at other nearby stations, including mainline Northumberland Park and Tottenham Hale Underground station, redevelopment of which has already been consented. In future, if the proposed Crossrail 2 scheme goes ahead, that will also improve stadium access. The aim is to get people to travel to the ground by public transport as much as possible because there is an extensive controlled parking zone in place in and around the area, with a further extension to be added across Haringey's boundary into the borough of Enfield.

Turning to Approved Document M, and specifically to supporters who use wheelchairs, what considerations are needed to achieve compliance?

There are still discussions taking place at this stage with various access groups including Level Playing Field, which looks at stadia in particular. Consultations have already taken place with this group, to the extent that the stadium's bowl design has been reconfigured with additional accessible spaces installed.

The stadium design consists of three distinct stands in a horseshoe shape, plus one 17,000-seater single-tier stand, which will be the new home end. The closest thing to the style of this is Borussia Dortmund Football Club's single-tier stand in Germany.

One of the interesting and different features of the new ground will be a retractable pitch, which will enable the stadium to host at least 2 American football games each season as well as concerts

When Tottenham Hotspur decided to review its application, it wanted to try to get the seats as close as possible to the touchline, to generate the best atmosphere. New stadia are often designed with sections where supporters are sitting a long way from the pitch, which can stifle this atmosphere. The design does present a number of safety issues, but not insurmountable ones – it is an interesting and different approach.

It is encouraging to see the number of flexible spaces that are being considered. A wheelchair user will be able to have the rest of their family sitting with them rather than somewhere else in the stadium, for example. The positions are also going to offer some of the best views. There will be more accessible toilets, and we are working towards installing Changing Places toilets, which have more features and space than standard accessible toilets.

Are there any special features in place so that a football match can continue without disruption, such as back-up generators or a heated pitch?

These features are all part and parcel of the Green Guide and, in fact, of all modern football stadia. At the existing White Hart Lane stadium these measures are already in place, because to be a Premier League club you have to have undersoil heating and generators, so that if there is power failure then facilities can be up and running again quickly.

One of the interesting and different features of the new ground will be a retractable pitch, which will enable the stadium to host at least 2 American football games each season as well as concerts; the pitch will slide under the south stand to reveal AstroTurf underneath. This presents interesting challenges for the structure of the south stand, as the columns will be spaced further apart thereby creating larger spans of the beams supporting the stand than you would normally expect in order to accommodate the pitch.

Are there any other Green Guide or fire safety implications for the design?

It will be a fully sprinklered stadium, which brings lots of benefits in terms of fire safety, and from the user's perspective. It also makes it a much more flexible area, because if it is not sprinklered you have to have sterile areas without concessions or food outlets.

What will the capacity of the new stadium be?

It will be around 61,000, which is considerably more than the current White Hart Lane ground's capacity of 36,200, and which will make it the largest club stadium in London. That will bring with it interesting dynamics because there will be more stewards and first-aid and catering staff.

Have there been any conflicts between technical standards, that is, between the Building Regulations and Green Guide, which you have had to address?

Not at the moment, but it is still relatively early days in the process. In a lot of instances, the Green Guide requirements are more onerous than the Building Regulations. It does not present a conflict because the club has to comply with the guide for us to certificate the stadium.

What role does building control play in the safety team?

At Haringey we are fortunate because as well as being Head of Building Control, I am also Chair of the Safety Advisory Group, so we deal with issues concerning safety at sports grounds. Our relationship with the club started in 1986 when Haringey took over the sports grounds safety role from the Greater London Council when it was disbanded, and I have chaired the Safety Advisory Group since 1994.

This has helped us form a strong partnership with the club, and we tend to be the building control body that does any work for it. This is obviously one of the big benefits with the new stadium because it looked to Haringey for the building control work rather than to an approved inspector or anyone else.

The club will often ask for our advice at a very early stage and, as we have the ability to perform both roles, it reduces the chance of conflict. The club benefits from working with one section – building control – and this cuts down time and wasted costs in trying to manage regulatory consents. So when we go to meetings with the club, we are able to talk with both hats on. This has certainly prevented a lot of issues that could otherwise have arisen.

New stadium

Figure 1: The capacity of the new stadium will be 61,000 – considerably more than the current capacity of 36,200 – which will make it the largest club stadium in London

I have spoken to colleagues involved in the various new stadia developed in the capital in recent years, including the London 2012 Olympics Games, Emirates and Wembley stadia. They have shared with me their experiences of various situations, which help to make the process progress smoothly.

Taking the example of the Olympics, there was the benefit of local authorities coming together with the formation of the Joint Local Authority Building Control (JLAB) team (see Building Control Journal, June/July 2015, pp.6–7). We are actually using JLAB’s expertise on this project, as we have signed a collaboration agreement that includes working with both its Olympic structural engineering and mechanical and electrical teams, and so far it is working really well.

It is not the first time there has been this level of cooperation throughout London, and it will not be the last. I also think this is the way forward for building control in London to deal with the vast amount of development in the capital. Haringey would not have sufficient expertise to do it all on our own, so we are using this knowledge from elsewhere.

Do you have any views about the concept of 'safe standing' rather than an all-seated stadium?

At this moment in time, the new stadium is not designed to have safe standing, and it would need a change in Premier League regulations for this to happen. However, it is being trialled elsewhere – in Scotland, for example – and Borussia Dortmund also has safe standing in its large single-tier stand. The proposed design may well be adapted in future to allow for an increase in the number of exits and concourse spaces, for example, so if the regulation does change the club will not have to do retrofitting work.

Are there any special measures for emergency planning?

The existing stadium certificate has contingency plans with the fire brigade, ambulance service and the police that dovetail with Haringey's contingency plan for emergencies. It will be exactly the same with the new stadium.

We have already started looking forward to the target opening date and what needs to be in place at that stage in order for the safety certificate to be issued. The first competitive game will take place in August 2018, but prior to that we would like to get some test events into the stadium. What shape or format those events will take has not yet been decided.

What stage is the work currently at?

The works on site have started, with pouring of the basement slabs already begun. At the moment there is a great big hole where the stadium will be, effectively in a horseshoe shape around the existing stadium. The interesting dynamics will be how the existing stadium is maintained while works progress during the 2016–17 season. This will mean building works finish at certain times to allow the stadium to prepare and clean in preparation for the matches.

At the moment, we have a safety certificate that is reviewed year on year. In future, depending on what stage the works are at and the impact they have on ingress and egress to the existing stadium, we may have to issue special safety certificates for each fixture. This in itself will be a big piece of work.

What are the evacuation strategy and ongoing management controls?

It may be that the evacuation strategy for the existing stadium will need tweaking or amending to enable the works to continue. This is part of the problem of building adjacent to an existing stadium. Looking forward to mid-2017, the existing stadium will need to be demolished for the rest of the work to continue, and the team will then play their matches in a stadium yet to be decided, but outside Haringey, for the 2017–18 season.

We also deal with demolitions, which are perhaps not normally thought of as something building control does, so we are not only concerned with the Building Regulations. Obviously the amount of demolition work that has happened to date involved issuing numerous demolition notices under the Building Act 1984, and this continues. The demolition has been relatively straightforward as the buildings have to date, all been low-rise. A lot of the area was occupied by light industrial units and taking these down to the ground was not a problem. Getting the stuff out of the ground was a bit more difficult, though, because there were big lumps of concrete everywhere.

Another way in which the club has benefitted from its relationship with us is our link to other departments of the council. So if the club needs to contact highways, environmental health or the food team for example, it can come to us and we can help with this rather than just have it coming in blind.

Barney Hatt is Editor of Building Control journal

Further information

Image © THFC

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This feature was taken from the RICS Building Control journal (June/July 2016)