Hearts still on course for major ground redevelopment

The club responded to claims that their current debt of £36 million has put doubts over the project that Vladimir Romanov, the majority shareholder, believes will turn Hearts into one of the top names in British football.

Edinburgh City Council, which is considering the club's planning application for the state-of-the-art 10,000-seater main stand, have yet to give its approval. Hearts admitted that negotiations over moving whisky from bonds situated just behind the Wheatfield Stand, as part of health and safety requirements, had prolonged the process.

The club reacted to reports that senior figures at Edinburgh City Council were "increasingly concerned" about Hearts' ability to deliver their side of the deal on the redevelopment and the feasibility of the scheme that also includes commercial facilities.

A planning application was submitted in January, a year later than originally expected. Last month, the club said they would not start work on the redevelopment until the summer of 2009. Soon after, Hearts revealed that their debt had soared beyond £36 million.

A club spokesman insisted that the project was still on track.

"There should be no surprise regarding the funding situation at the club given that the board requested and got approval for the extension of the debt facility to £40 million as long ago as February 2007.

"Also the club has ensured that the application submitted is accurate and appropriate for a multi-million pound development of this scale. There is no doubt, however, that negotiations with third parties have prolonged the process, but we would hope for a speedy and positive resolution to the planning application which would result in long-term benefits for not just Heart of Midlothian, but also for the city of Edinburgh."

The club spokesman said the new stadium would mean an extra £2.5 million a year in ticket revenue and another £1.2 million in wider economic benefits to shops, restaurants and bars in the area.

"There is no question about the viability of the scheme or the willingness to get this done," the spokesman said. "It is in everyone’s interests that this goes ahead as quickly as possible. We would hope and expect this will be the last season playing in front of the existing main stand at Tynecastle. However, the planning application is in with the council and it is over to them."

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