IT’S been several months since the Planning Application to build houses on Brandon Stadium was submitted by developers Brandon Estates.
As yet, no date for the application to be considered by Rugby Council Planning Committee has been identified.
Many people - speedway fans, stock car fans and local residents - have no real idea of what is going on and why the issue is so protracted.
So in this communication, we endeavour to explain the status as we understand it.
There are several concurrent matters currently active, including:
(1) the ongoing Rugby Local Plan;
(2) the Planning Application submitted by Brandon Estates in January;
And, most recently:
(3) the Brandon & Bretford Neighbourhood Plan.
1) The Local Plan
Brandon Estates originally tried, in vain, to get their proposals to redevelop Brandon Stadium included in Rugby’s Local Plan which was issued in mid-2017. Had they been successful, their plans would almost certainly have been approved.
Rugby Council, in common with every other local authority in the country, is required to submit their Local Plan to the Government. The process that follows includes the appointment of a Government Inspector, who chairs a Public Examination of those plans to provide interested parties with the opportunity to comment and influence the plan.
The Rugby Local Plan Public Examination took place in April, and representatives from the Save Coventry Speedway and Stox Campaign Group argued that Rugby Council Policies, whilst protecting open spaces and sports fields, did not adequately protect sports facilities and specifically Brandon Stadium.
The Government Inspector, Mr Hayden, clearly agreed with that and in his Interim Report issued on May 17 he stated the Local Plan was unsound in the absence of a policy to protect existing sports and recreational buildings, and he too made specific reference to Brandon Stadium after making a site visit.
His recommended modifications to the plan were to ensure that any planning application for the redevelopment of Brandon Stadium could be assessed against evidence for its need, viability and alternative provision – none of which have been properly addressed by Brandon Estates.
In response to the Inspector’s Interim Report, Rugby Council have made changes to the Local Plan and to council policies. These changes were put in the public domain on August 14 and a consultation period, allowing people to comment on them, runs until October 5.
Included within those changes are Proposed Modifications to Policy HS4, which provides protection for sports facilities such as Brandon Stadium against redevelopment. We strongly support these proposed modifications.
However, we will also be looking to make further representations as we believe there may be inconsistencies between the Inspector’s Report following the discussions at the Public Examination and his site visit, and the Proposed Modifications as published by the Council.
We believe the Proposed Modifications do not fully reflect the sentiments of the Inspector’s Report, and should go further in maximising protection for Brandon.
Before we submit representations, we will seeking to meet with the Council for further discussions.
2) The Planning Application
Having failed to get their plans to redevelop the stadium on the Local Plan, Brandon Estates submitted a speculative Planning Application to Rugby Council in January this year.
The process that follows is one people will be more familiar with as it is similar to someone submitting plans for an extension to their house, for example.
The proposals are put in the public domain and a period of consultation follows, enabling people to raise concerns, or indeed support the application. The Planning Officers then make a recommendation with goes to a Planning Committee of 12 Councillors, who make the final decision.
Following submission of the speculative Planning Application by Brandon Estates in January, the consultation period ran throughout February. Opposition to the proposals was overwhelming, details of which were shown in an earlier communication and included 1800 letters of objection including from the governing bodies of both sports (and only 7 in support), as well as a letter signed by 11 Members of Parliament, a further objection from Sport England and extensive local and national media coverage in favour of the retention of the stadium.
The application has still not gone to the Planning Committee and as yet, no date has been set for the application to be considered.
We have been advised by the Principal Planning Officer Erica Buchanan that it will not be considered at the Committee meeting in September, and that she is awaiting further documentation from the applicants before completing her report. We believe the conclusion of the Local Plan may also be a factor in the delay.
We understand the documentation outstanding includes information regarding stadium viability and have been advised that this documentation will be confidential and therefore will not be placed in the public domain.
An earlier document on viability submitted to the Council in January, was withheld, claiming it was ‘confidential.’ The Summary document (Non-Technical Summary Viability Document), was eventually put in the public domain following our representations to the Council, and was found to be littered with misleading and inaccurate statements and complete untruths. We were able to address these in our response to the Council and provide evidence which disproved the claims.
We are concerned that a further submission on viability should not go unscrutinised and unchallenged, as this too may contain inaccurate information and influence the eventual outcome.
We are happy to confirm that we have submitted detailed information proving the viability of the stadium, with particular reference to stock car racing – an element which was totally overlooked in the Planning Application, both in terms of its revenue for the stadium, and also the lack of any alternative provision.
We have therefore requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, sight of this viability documentation so it can be properly scrutinised. Until it is received, the Council are not able to assess it and respond to our request. 3) The Brandon and Bretford Neighbourhood Plan
Local communities are able to prepare Neighbourhood Plans covering their area. These are required to be consistent with the approach in the higher tier Local Plan. This means, for example, they have to reflect the level of growth required by the Local Plan but may set out the community’s requirements in more detail.
The Brandon and Bretford Neighbourhood Plan is currently out for consultation (closing on October 16, 2018). This includes a specific policy covering the Brandon Stadium site.
The Campaign Group is considering its response to this document and will explain this in more detail at our public meeting (details below).
Bees at Leicester
We note the latest position regarding Coventry Speedway and the current venture at Leicester, with major doubts being expressed over its continuation into next season.
We have always been consistent in our view that we would be fully in support of the venture if we were convinced that it was part of a genuine plan towards returning to the local area, and that stock car racing was also included as a part of that.
What we could never accept was the clear inference in the Planning Application that Coventry Speedway had now found a “better” venue from which to conduct their business.
We have absolutely no issue with any efforts to keep the name alive, but it was always clear that racing in the lowest tier of the sport some 30 miles from the iconic Brandon home of the Bees, was always going to be a gamble in terms of attendances.
Whatever the outcome and whether or not Coventry take to the track next season, it does not change our position in the slightest: our focus is firmly on stopping the current planning application and getting BOTH sports back to Brandon.
Last October, the Save Coventry Speedway and Stox Campaign Group staged a public meeting at the Brandon Club.
A year on, we plan to stage a second public meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to summarise the events of the last twelve months, update speedway fans, stock car fans and local residents of the latest situation and provide an opportunity for people to ask questions.
We will issue a further communication as soon as details of date and venue are finalised.