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Tactical NIMBYism

A landowner hopes to prevent an English soccer team-led land seizure by dividing his property into one-square-meter plots.


To help train potential up-and-coming soccer stars of tomorrow, the Manchester City Football Club has plans to greatly expand its training grounds on land near its stadium in Manchester, England. The multimillion dollar club, though, has an unlikely roadblock in its way: a single individual who owns part of the land they want to build on. Normally one man wouldn’t be a problem for a deep-pocketed institution like a professional soccer team, but this particular land owner, a local businessman named Shaun O’Brien, appears hell-bent on stopping, or at least stalling, the process.

The city has been trying to ease the club’s expansion moves by proposing a Compulsory Purchase Order, the U.K. equivalent of seizing private property through eminent domain.

To try to impede this process, as the BBC reports, O’Brien is subdividing his property and trying to sell off one-square-meter plots for £250 each. By spreading the ownership, he’s hoping to throw a wrench into the gears of the likely land seizure – or at least urge the team to reconsider their offer to buy him out.

That he’s a fan of Manchester City rivals Manchester United is immaterial, he tells the BBC. Rather, O’Brien claims the soccer club’s offer to buy his land and relocate his business was below market value, largely thanks to the recession.

“'They have offered me less than I paid for it 15 years ago. As far as I'm concerned, my land is not for sale at that price,” he told the Daily Mail.

But officials in Manchester argue that O’Brien was simply expecting too much for what’s not very valuable land in the first place.

"The valuation he's placing on this land is far in excess of anything in Manchester and would make it equivalent to the most expensive plots in the most exclusive areas of London," a Manchester City council spokesperson told the BBC.

The city says the land acquisition is likely to go ahead, despite all the drama. But O’Brien is hopeful that others will join his fight against what he sees as overly intrusive government practices and favoritism for well-monied interests over the concerns of locals.

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About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.