In 2001, Plymouth Argyle applied to redevelop the Home Park stadium in phases. Phase 1 was to replace the Lyndhurst (north), Devonport (west) and Barn Park (east) stands with the present horseshoe, whilst phase 2 would address the Mayflower stand later. Planning permission was granted for phase 1 in April 2001 and work started in July the same year.
Apart from visual considerations, phase 1 of the development affected Central Park by:
- Introducing steps in the bank below the north stand which lead down to Coronation Avenue.
- Making a steeper embankment below the north east corner of the stadium.
- Forming a new access road for emergency service vehicles through Zoo Field. This is the path that connects Coronation Avenue with Gilbert Lane as well as the ramp that joins to the stadium’s perimeter road.
- Consolidating the area of compacted ground at the top of Zoo Field.
Steps in the bank below the north stand
Required for crowd control, the steps also provided useful access between the stadium perimeter road and Coronation Avenue. They were situated in a gap in the horse chestnut tree avenue.
Steeper embankment below the stadium’s north east corner
The new stands occupied a slightly larger footprint than the previous ones and, in order not to go beyond the existing fence line in the park, the embankment had to be made steeper.
New access road for emergency service vehicles through Zoo Field
By 2001, Zoo Field had recovered as grassland, scrub and trees following demolition of Chipperfield’s skate park in 1981 although the top of the field next to Gilbert Lane, where the zoo’s quarantine house had stood, was being used as an informal BMX track.
The new access road was formed inside the area of Zoo Field that had been leased by Plymouth City Council to the football club, although managed as parkland. The freehold of this area was subsequently conveyed to the club with the stadium in 2006. It means that the path through Zoo Field as well as parcels of land on either side are owned by Plymouth Argyle.
The road or 5-metre wide path joined an existing splay on Coronation Avenue and had a gentle double-bend made near its lower end to avoid two tree groups.
The top of the road went into the club’s car park whilst the short spur linking it to Gilbert Lane was not surfaced until being included in the 2017 park improvement programme.
Compacted ground at the top of Zoo Field
The build contractors were given approval to use the area of the informal BMX track as a temporary storage for excavated material. It came with the promise of reinstatement once construction work had completed, either as a purpose-made BMX track or, regraded, top-soiled and seeded, as parkland.
In practice, reinstatement did not happen and the spoil heap remained until 2012 when it was transported to join other areas of infill caused by building the Life Centre. However, it left behind a stony layer about 0.4 metre deep across the top of Zoo Field which has since become used as a deposit site for tree-work arisings. In 2023, the area was re-ordered to include a composting facility and a shipping-container store for staff working in the park.