SWINDON Town have revealed outline plans for the first phase of the multi-million pound County Ground redevelopment, which could start next year.

Chief executive Nick Watkins said the stage focuses on the Town End, doubling the capacity to 4,000, and providing pitchside-view function rooms, possibly with an associated hotel.

Mr Watkins stressed that the club could not secure any funding until the planning application was approved, but said they had already had discussions with banks, venture capital houses and individuals.

Swindon Council owns the land the stadium is on but will not provide any funding. Instead, when the club’s lease expires in March, the council plans to give them a 250-year lease through a collaboration agreement, which will act as a fixed asset against which to lever funding.

The club is to work with Swindon Council to draw up an agreement which will guide what uses and architectural styles are acceptable and unacceptable when the planning committee considers the planning application itself.

Watkins said: “They’re reviewing that proposal. Nothing has been green-lit at this stage.

“They’re reviewing our submission – if they find agreement with that, the next stage is to agree a structural agreement and that will give us the comfort to invest the considerable amount of money as necessary to proceed with a full planning application.

“Hopefully that will not be in the too distant future. Things got put back a little for the simple reason we were awaiting for the outcome of the local elections, but that work is back on track.”

The function rooms would enhance those which already exist at the County Ground and the hotel would support this facility.

Watkins said work on the three-phase development could start in 2013, and the first stage would take 12 to 18 months. Further phases would focus on the Arkell’s stand, then the Don Rogers Stand, and finally the Stratton Bank.

Watkins said: “Any football club needs to move towards some form of self-sustainability.

“A football club only operating one day in 14 cannot create a scenario where it can be self-sustaining. Football clubs have to find ways to operate on 14 days in 14, so any redevelopment initiative is designed to generate income for the entity Monday to Friday, not just on Saturday afternoon.”

The 14,000-capacity stadium is rarely full at present, but Mr Watkins said that if Swindon fulfilled their ambition of reaching the Championship, they would need a 20,000-plus capacity.

He also pointed out that it was possible to build a stadium with capacity to expand, so extra seating could be installed if required, such as in Milton Keynes.

Coun Dale Heenan, Swindon Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said he hoped a planning application would be submitted in the next four to six weeks, and the details would be agreed during the course of the next season.

He said: “Over the years, we know that the football club have had a desire to rebuild and extend their stadium for a variety of reasons but there always seems to be barriers.

“Clearly, this is a situation now which we would like to overcome and find a way forward for the town.

“As part of that, we’ve now started discussions with Swindon Town FC around rebuilding the Town end to double the capacity, which will be good news for the fans, and it will also show any potential players that Swindon is serious about getting back into the Premier League.”