THE issue of Brandon Stadium was discussed during Stage 2 of the Local Plan Examination which took place earlier this week at Rugby Council.
Save Coventry Speedway and Stox group were represented at the hearing by Dave Carter and Jeff Davies. Brandon Estates were also present at the hearing, represented by Mr Peter Frampton of Framptons Planning.
The Secretary of State appointed Mr Mike Hayden as the Inspector to undertake the independent examination into whether the Rugby Local Plan is sound and complies with all the legal requirements.
The criteria for soundness are whether the Plan’s policies are positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.
Dave Carter, who is by profession a Consultant Town Planner with many years of experience, made the case that the plan was not sound, as the existing policies do not adequately protect sports facilities and requested that this be addressed by a change to policy.
The representatives from Rugby Borough Council appeared to be receptive to such a change, so we very much hope the Inspector gives serious consideration to this in his report.
The issue of the damage and current state of the stadium was discussed. Brandon Estates stated that costs to reinstate the stadium now runs into millions (of pounds) whilst the Campaign Group argue this is almost entirely down to lack of security on the site, enabling travellers to gain access with little trouble.
Brandon Estates offered to provide the Inspector with a document entitled the 'NTS Viability Assessment', which they believe highlights reasons why the stadium is unviable. The Campaign Group asked the Inspector if he would also review the document prepared by the Campaign Group in response to the NTS Viability Assessment. Mr Hayden agreed to that request.
The Inspector also stated he would like to visit the site and arrangements are in place for that visit to take place this week, with the Inspector accompanied by Mr Frampton (for Brandon Estates) and Jeff Davies (for the Save Coventry Speedway & Stox Campaign Group).
With the hearing taking place in mid-week, not surprisingly, not too many people were able to attend; however, approximately 20 supporters were present and we would like to thank each of those people for their attendance.
The Inspector indicated that he hopes to complete his report in two weeks’ time, provided there are no unexpected issues arising.
The outcome of the hearing is important because the Local Plan has an important bearing on the determination of all planning applications. While it sets out the vision, policies and proposals for future development and land use and includes Brandon Stadium within the Green Belt, and does not include the redevelopment of the stadium for housing, it does not specifically refer to Brandon Stadium nor reflect national policies protecting sports venues from redevelopment without replacement facilities being provided.
If the Inspector recommends a strengthening of policy – as we were proposing in our representations to the local plan – then the proposed modification would be subject to a further round of public consultation before the plan is finalised.
Brandon Estates have submitted a speculative planning application to redevelop the site and this is currently under consideration by Rugby Borough Council. It is this application which has attracted unprecedented numbers of letters of objection from speedway and stock car fans, the vast majority of local residents as well as a number of local Members of Parliament.
Once the Planning Officers have completed their assessment, the Principal Planning Officer will prepare a report and recommendation to put to the Planning Committee, made up of 12 Rugby Borough Councillors. It is this body that makes the final decision and we have been advised this week, that it will not be reported to Planning Committee in late May as we have previously reported.
This delay is welcome news because it should allow the Planning Committee to take account of the outcome of the local plan Inspector’s Report.
So, we have always known this process is not a short one but, believe we have tremendous momentum behind our campaign and remain optimistic. We urge the many thousands of people supportive of the Save Coventry Speedway and Stox Campaign Group to remain positive.
We will fight it all the way, however long that may take, with the objective of at some point in the future, hearing the roar of engines once again around the famous Brandon Stadium.