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John Nelms Q&A: Dundee chief on latest new stadium plans – in his own words

Nelms presented the media with a pre-Christmas update on the Dark Blues' stadium project.

Dundee managing director John Nelms. Image: David Young
Dundee managing director John Nelms. Image: David Young

John Nelms insists Dundee could move into their proposed new stadium by summer 2025.

The Dark Blues released a fresh conceptual image of their potential new home on Friday, along with details of some of the facilities it will contain.

The club has yet to apply for full planning permission for the multi-faceted project, which includes housing, a hotel, retail space, car parking and a training ground.

However, Nelms, Dundee’s managing director, insists extensive work has been done on a ‘planning permission in principle’ (PPiP) application, which is set to be lodged “imminently”.

Speaking to the media at the club’s Gardyne Campus training base, the Dee chief revealed costs have risen by “£10 million” since the new stadium project was first mooted.

But he insisted the club have an agreement “in principle” to finance the development.

Courier Sport has pulled together Nelms’ responses at Friday’s press conference – here they are in his own words.

John Nelms speaks to reporters about Dundee’s new stadium project. Image: David Young

On ‘planning permission in principle’…

“Normally planning permission in principle is literally a line around a piece of land and you ask the question: ‘Can we do this on this piece of land?’

“In this scenario, because it is such a large development for the city, it is planning in principle – and there is a red line around it, but we have also done an EIA – environmental impact study – and a traffic impact study.

“Everything you would do for a full planning application, we have done all of that for this to make sure it works all the way through [the planning permission process]. We call it planning in principle on steroids!

“It is well beyond what you would normally do for a planning in principle, which is bad because it takes so long to do now and is so very costly, but is very good because, once they (planning authorities) say yes, each one of the elements already has all that work done.

“Although it has taken much longer now, when you go for full planning permission for the stadium and hotel and whatever, all of that work will already be complete.”

New concept image of Dundee’s Camperdown Park stadium complex. Image: Holmes Miller Architects

On timescale for full planning permission application…

“Unfortunately I can’t answer that question because it’s not me who decides that.

“This [planning permission in principle] will go in, they [Dundee City Council] have a statute of time that they are supposed to get it done in,. Whether or not they get it done in that time we will see.

“The City Council said just recently that they are there to remove barriers and look at helping regeneration. That is heartening for people like us. They will be a team member as opposed to adversarial.

“As soon as that is done each one of the elements goes to full planning. That time frame should be shrunk, just for the fact that all our environmental stages are done. They are already there.

“What we have done is way beyond the normal planning permission in principle.”

A prior concept image of Dundee’s proposed new stadium at Camperdown. Image: Dundee FC

On changes to plan…

“It has been evolving since 2016 really. The stadium has shifted from a north-south orientation, to east-west. I am not sure a year ago it had done that.

“We wanted the main part of the stadium facing the Kingsway, we wanted that to be most prominent. It also allows for different things to happen on-site, from a traffic point of view and other elements, making them all fit properly.

“We have done that. We have the space to do that and it has worked out really well.”

John Nelns in his office at Dundee’s Gardyne Campus training base. Image: David Young

On summer 2025 target…

“That’s my target. You might talk to our contractors and planners and things of that nature, because I am constantly going to be pushing for that to happen, but whether or not that is realistic we will see.

“The contractors have given me time frames when they think they can get the stadium built. The construction of the stadium, although it is a big facility, it is not a very complicated construction. Parts of it are quite complex in the main stand but the other three sides are not nearly as complicated.

“That can be done in a quick period of time. We will be aggressively pushing to get it done as quickly as possible.”

On Transport Scotland/A90 access…

“We have been working with Transport Scotland for a long, long time. As part of our planning we had to show six different options of how we ingress and egress this site.

“There have been loads of meetings with Transport Scotland, we have been through over and over how we get in and out of this site. We now feel we are comfortable.

“You have to remember all the traffic on match day already comes past this site on the way to Dens. Old Firm, Hearts, Hibs – it’s just two roundabouts and then you are at [the new] site. Getting away fans in and out is much easier at this site.

“No one has signed off on anything. But I can tell you that all our consultants, all of the studies, they have all come back looking great.

“We do not foresee any issues whatsoever, which is unusual for a development of this size. Usually there is something out there that does not quite fit with what you are trying to do and you have to work around it. In this case we don’t have that.”

John Nelms and Tim Keyes’ Dark Blue Property Holdings recently purchased Dens Park from businessman John Bennett. Image: SNS

On Dens Park…

“The way that we’re funding [the new stadium] at the moment is, there’s a cash contribution from the ownership group (Tim Keyes and John Nelms) and then we have facilities that sit alongside us at the moment. Owning Dens allows us to have a lot of flexibility to do what we want.

“The intention is we are at Dens, kick the last ball, then kick the next ball here (at the new stadium). Which is a huge headache off my plate. You don’t want to be figuring out where you want to play. It would be very difficult to groundshare (if they sold Dens Park before the new stadium was ready).”

On financing…

“The ownership structure is Tim and I, Dark Blue Property Holdings. Then we will have a facility sat next to us. Think of it as a house mortgage; it is very similar to that, much more complicated than that, but similar.

“[The cost] is viable. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t viable.

Dundee owner Tim Keyes (left) and John Nelms with the Championship trophy. Image: SNS

“The cost has gone up. The total number is an estimate until we get to final construction numbers. From 2016 to now it has probably risen £10m overall. But with what we are doing and how we are doing it, we still think it is still very viable.

“Everything around it is enabling it to happen. That is why it is important to have all these other bits and pieces. The stadium has to work seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“You can’t have the finance in place until its ready to go. There are people we are working with who are saying: ‘Here are the facilities that are afforded to you guys’.

“We have the funding in principle, but until it’s done you don’t have it. There is no time pressure, there is no financial pressure, we just want to get it done as fast as possible.”