SPORT ENGLAND have joined the ever-growing list of calls for the planning application decision on Brandon Stadium to take account of the need for speedway and stock car racing in the area.
The public body is sponsored by the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and one of their functions is to protect existing sports provision.
Sport England were not a statutory consultee on the planning application as the site, being a commercial entity, is not deemed as a ‘playing field.’
They did, though, make a general submission at the time of the application as they have done when other motorsports venues have been threatened.
However, following a full review of the documentation pertaining to the application, and the extensive submission of the Campaign Group, Sport England have now significantly upgraded their response.
They have drawn particular attention to the comments of the governing bodies of both speedway and stock car racing, who all wrote to Rugby Borough Council highlighting the importance of Brandon Stadium to their sports.
Sport England have noted several points made by the speedway and stock car authorities – including the facts that the stadium was central to both sports and had hosted numerous British and World Championship events, and that Coventry Racing Club was always a viable operation (contrary to assertions in the planning application).
They also pointed out “a number of concerns” with the applicant’s (Brandon Estates) Viability Statement (prepared by Turley), as the consultation comments from the Campaign Group “conflict with the applicant’s case that the stadium is surplus to requirement, not commercially viable and that there no are interested bodies willing to acquire the stadium for its current use.
“Such comments include that the Coventry Bees Speedway team’s move to Leicester is only for a single season, therefore it is possible that the team could return to the stadium alongside stock car racing, deemed a viable entity and which BRISCA are still supporting to bring racing to the area, for which a number of interested bodies approached the applicant to purchase / lease the site for such use.”
Sport England have concluded that the points raised by the Campaign Group should be clarified by Brandon Estates in regard to paragraph 74 of National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – with an updated Viability Assessment as necessary.
Paragraph 74 essentially states that an assessment is required to demonstrate that the building is surplus to requirement, and that this assessment should be based on proportionate evidence including consideration as to ‘ensuring viability and deliverability’ (NPPF para 173).
Clearly, the Campaign Group totally reject Brandon Estates' suggestion that the stadium is surplus to requirement, and the scale of opposition to the planning application merely confirms that point.
The issue of viability of the sports is borne out by other evidence submitted relating to speedway and stock car activity over many years, and the fact that there has been interest from several parties in bringing the sports back – interest which was rapidly rebuffed by Brandon Estates on the basis that stock car racing would never be considered at the stadium.
Hence the opportunity to present a full business case was never available to potential purchasers/leasees (again, contrary to assertions in the planning application).
Documentary evidence of examples of that correspondence is included in our own response to the planning application.
The viability of Brandon Stadium itself following the damage caused since Brandon Estates took possession but failed to secure the site for over a year is another matter for debate.
The conclusions of ‘independent’ surveys commissioned by Brandon Estates themselves should come as little surprise, and they should be aware that we have firm, feasible plans which could restore the site at a fraction of the costs quoted.
Our thanks to Sport England for raising several significant points, and we trust these are given due consideration during the current process.