EARLIER this month the owners of Brandon Stadium, Investin Ltd (Brandon Estates) were back in court in Birmingham.
This was the sixth time there had been court proceedings regarding allegations from Rugby Council that the terms of a Community Protection Notice, originally served in September 2017, had been breached due to the lack of security at the venue between April 2, 2019 and September 20, 2019.
The latest case hearing resulted in yet another adjournment, at the request of the defence (Brandon Estates Ltd), until March 26 for a plea to be entered.
We have always been somewhat surprised by the relatively narrow timescale to which the case refers, although there is of course substantial evidence of incursions and damage to the stadium, as well as a detrimental effect on local residents, over that period.
However, it is also a fact that since last spring the situation has in fact become substantially worse, due in part to the owners’ decision to completely remove all routine daily security visits.
They have regularly assured ourselves and the Council in writing that they are “working closely with relevant stakeholders, the Council and the Police” to secure the site; however, extensive photographic evidence proves this is simply not the case.
As recently as last week, a live social media broadcast took place inside the stadium, and whilst the group involved were not there to create damage, it underlined the ease of entry – which was in exactly the same location as in their previous visit last year!
We do not know whether the owners have been misinformed by their contractors or if they are simply attempting to mislead the Council officials, but it is clear that the actions they claim to be taking are not being backed up on the ground.
Consequently, we have contacted Rugby Council urging them that, irrespective of the status of the current case, they should strongly consider taking further action against the owners for countless and even more serious breaches during a wider timescale covering 2020 and the early part of 2021.
And with no sign yet of a revised planning application as we head into a fifth year where the famous names of Coventry Speedway and stock car racing will be absent, we call on the Council as a whole to place greater importance on the need for a resolution which reflects the Local Plan and respects the views of the vast majority of the public.
It is now nearly six-and-a-half years since the owners first published plans for development on Brandon. In that time, they have failed to even get an application taken to a planning committee, let alone secure a ‘change of use’ for the venue.
It is over four years since they closed the stadium in order to invent a case that it was unviable and there was no ongoing need for it – but failed to provide any evidence that was not conclusively refuted. This also had the effect of commencing the systematic destruction of the stadium due to non-existent security.
It is three years since the submission of what turned out to be an incomplete and totally inadequate planning application, which received a reaction unprecedented in terms of negativity from all quarters – local residents, sports fans, and speedway and stock car authorities.
It is two-and-a-half years since the submission of a Sports Needs Assessment which embarrassingly worked back from a pre-determined conclusion and was riddled with inaccuracies and untruths.
It is around 18 months since the findings of an Independent Review were made public, where the repeated failings within the planning application and subsequent documentation were made clear. The report concluded the owners had failed to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework, effectively stalling the existing application.
After three years, how much longer can Rugby Council allow this application to remain active but not be taken to committee, in the absence of any new or revised application to supersede it?
It is nearly a year since a meeting took place between representatives of the owners and ourselves, where an undertaking was made by them to investigate a potential solution. This was subsequently reneged upon.
It is nearly nine months since an offer was made by a highly creditable businessman to buy the site and restore it for racing – and yet incredibly that offer has yet to be accepted or rejected.
In view of the mountain of evidence stacked up against the owners, there must now be grounds to regard this as the most shambolic attempted redevelopment in the history of Rugby Council.
And when the owners’ next attempt is finally presented, they can rest assured that on behalf of speedway and stock car fans and the overwhelming majority in the local community, we will be ready with opposition on an even greater scale than for the original.