WDC meeting with GASP – 10 March 2011

WDC meeting with GASP

10 March 2011

Background

  • WDC requested the meeting on 3rd March
  • The aim of the meeting was to ‘listen and enter constructive discussions to cover issues and concerns that exist about the project’
  • Attendees from WDC were to include
      • Cllr Lesley Clarke (Chairperson)
      • Cllr Tony Green
      • Cllr Roger Columb
      • Karen Satterford (CEO)
      • Jerry Unsworth (Head of Planning)
      • Stephen Meah-Sims (Head of Communications)
  • On Thursday 10th March attendees were confirmed as above with Ian Westgate (Corporate Director) instead of Karen Satterford

Meeting

  • GASP attended the meeting as requested by WDC and protested that having just five working days warning did not provide sufficient time to prepare for the meeting
  • Cllrs Clarke and Columb did not attend the meeting
  • No explanation or apologies were proffered by the Council
  • Hugh Griffiths (Property) attended the meeting

Discussion

  • In the absence of nominated Chairperson, Cllr Green chaired the meeting
  • Cllr Green stated that the Council is starting a new phase of consultation regarding the proposed stadium development. The purpose of these meetings was to ‘hear people’s views and concerns’ and ‘take a note of these concerns’
  • Cllr Green stated that the Council had ‘decided on the site’ and further consultation was to inform how the project proceeds
  • Cllr Green stated that the leaflet distributed by GASP the previous weekend was, he believed, inaccurate and misleading
    • GASP said they were aware of one inaccuracy over-stating the attendances at WWFC
    • Cllr Green said that the reference to ‘concreting over 240 acres of Green Belt was inaccurate. Jerry Unsworth explained that, although the site is 240 acres, not all of it would be built upon
    • GASP asked how much of the site would be built upon
    • WDC were unable to answer this but said it would be revealed in the Planning Application
  • Cllr Green stated that he believed the consultation about the development had been ‘fine’ and did not understand why people claimed it was flawed
    • GASP gave examples of flaws:-
      • Ineffective publicity about the project in advance of the consultation
      • Quantitative measurement restricted to six weeks rather that twelve
      • Focus groups run after the main consultation rather than informing the process
      • Lack of clarity about the various options eg selling land for housing to fund a ‘sports village’
      • Lack of an obvious ‘do nothing’ option
      • Reporting that gives equal weight to a single unattributed comment from a focus group as to clear views of well attended public meetings
    • Jerry Unsworth assured the meeting that he had experience running numerous similar consultations
    • GASP suggested that the consultation had focused upon the merits of different sites rather than the merits of the project as a whole
  • GASP asked WDC to share the single compelling reason why this project was such a pressing priority for the council
    • Jerry Unsworth said it was to create ‘social and economic benefits’ for the district. Pushed to explain these benefits he said:-
      • The importance of the professional clubs to the district
      • Well-being, vision profile and kudos for the district
      • Providing sports coaching and encouraging a sports lifestyle
      • Jobs
      • Sports facilities
    • Hugh Griffiths said it wasn’t solely about economic benefits but about the community. He said that the development would create a centre for Research & Development about sport
    • Jerry Unsworth said ‘If the council doesn’t do something, WASPs will go’
    • WDC stressed the importance of WWFC in the plan
    • Jerry Unsworth said the Planning Application would detail how the development would ‘ensure the long-term sustainability of the clubs’
    • Cllr Green said ‘ the council doesn’t see another way of doing this’ (creating long-term sustainability for the clubs)
    • Cllr Green said that he believed the sports village would become a centre of excellence for youth sports. Specifically he anticipated Youth Academies for rugby and football with funding from national bodies. Cllr Green believed these academies would provide coaching for amateur clubs and aspiring professionals
    • GASP expressed surprise that after so much time and money had been spent on the project the Council were unable to express the single compelling argument for this project in clear terms
    • GASP said the various reasons given did not appear to justify building on Green Belt land, the environmental damage or the upheaval to the community
    • GASP questioned whether any of the reasons given justified the building of a new stadium as the benefits could be achieved with the existing stadium
  • GASP pleaded with the Council to give long consideration to the irreparable damage that the development would do to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by building a stadium and housing on top of a hill and hence visible for many many miles
  • GASP pleaded that the Council also consider the noise and light pollution created by such a stadium
    • Hugh Griffiths said that a hill-top stadium of increased capacity need not be noisier than Adams Park sited in a valley
    • Hugh Griffiths stated that noise restriction measures would be identified in the Planning Application
  • WDC explained that they could not build a business plan for the project until the site is agreed and they have a design for the stadium
  • GASP said that in the private sector a business plan would have been put in place at the start of the project long before authorizing expenditure of up to £500k
  • A spend of £308k on the project had been quoted in December, GASP asked if much more money had been sent since then. Ian Westgate said the expenditure on the project was closer to £308k than £500k and that no more monies were to be spent by the Council before the Planning Application was made.
  • GASP asked why the Council failed to mention WASP’s or Wanderers in their communications about the development, specifically the pre-consultation press release and the current issue of the council magazine
    • Cllr Green said that the Council assumed everybody knows that a Community Stadium is for the use of the professional clubs
    • GASP pleaded with the Council to use clear language in communications and avoid phases such as ‘community stadium’ and ‘enabling development’ which fail to communicate specific intentions
  • GASP asked the Council to share their plan to progress the project including further consultations
    • Ian Westgate said that this plan would be made public in the ‘next few weeks’.  The plan would include major milestones/decision points and identify future stages of public consultation

Next Actions

WDC plan to meet with various groups and interested individuals and listen to their concerns

WDC to publish project plan, showing stages, milestones and decision points and dates within the next few weeks

GASP offered to help the Council engage the community in the project

(Please note:  Any references to specific people in the following comments have been removed.  GASP is currently reviewing its policy on Comments.)

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19 Responses to WDC meeting with GASP – 10 March 2011

  1. Laneender says:

    Despite Clarke’s disgraceful behaviour in not attending, I can’t see how The member of WDC’s position is tenable; here is the Head of Planning, becoming involved in the application process, it is nothing more than a disgrace.

  2. Clarkee73 says:

    I am well known for my views. Having read the above I am disgusted with how WDC are treating this.

    Comments like “If we don’t build it Wasps will go” do not help. Who was here first? Yes, WWFC stand to lose an alleged £650k per annum in rent. (My business case will follow. I am resorting to the same tactics)

    We still own the Freehold. We still have an asset. Some might say we have a pitch to play on.

    I still fail to see how there are special circumstances for Green Belt development. I also fail to see how they expect planning permission with so much opposition for the whole application not to be called in by the Secretary of State.

    I urge everyone who is either opposed or uninformed (like me) to object until the answers are given in black and white.

    • raymond spencer says:

      As a residennt of Marlow who is neither a rugby club or fooball club supporter whose knowledge of this progect is mostlywhat I read in the papers, I strongly object to to what I see as a waste of public funds on a project with nebulus financial or community benefits. I have met nobody in marlow who has a good word to say for this project, as things stand I have never been consulted and will never be consulted.I would like to see a petitionto allow expression of the very real public anger at the way that Wycombe Council has spent very large sums of money, in this period of economic austerity and cuts to services and now seems bent on steam rollering it through. In a democracy the rate payers should have a vote but it would be a miracle if the council allowed a referendum.

  3. John Barlow says:

    How can it be that after all the money (our money) that has been spent [over £300k] and all the time that WDC have invested in this project that the Council were unable to express the single compelling argument for this project in clear terms to the GASP representatives?

    I fear that the Council Leaders have already made up their minds.

    There is an Election in May this year. Will the public have an option of expressing their views on the proposals by way of GASP candidates? Such single issue candidates would sweep the board. Come on GASP!

  4. John Bartlett says:

    WDC call a meeting giving just 5 working days notice. The chairperson and one other Cllr (2 out of 3 Cllrs) fail to attend, giving no apology or explanation. The single compelling reason for development on Green Belt land is not forthcoming. Smacks of arrogance to me.

  5. dave says:

    I found this site from a link off of BBC website sport. I think Wycombe Council have behaved badly and without any care for the interests of residence, WWFC or the environment. Will there be another petition or demo?

    Good luck GASP!

    • Paul says:

      Could someone tell me who is responsible for deciding whether or not the case hase been made to justify building on green belt.

      Thanks, Paul

      • Laneender says:

        The Council will be spending more money on consultants to provide a justification.

        • Paul says:

          Just concerned that if it is anything to do with the aforementioned member of WDC it would appear to be a foregone conclusion. He has changed his tune since the Cressex public meeting! I wonder how bad the stench of all this has to get before someone at Cohen Towers decides to look under a few rocks.

          • Laneender says:

            I cannot see how a member of WDC can claim any independence whatsoever in all of this. We might be proved wrong but it’s for his conscience and integrity.

  6. Ian Harris says:

    For your information

    OPEN PROPERTY AND INVESTMENTS LIMITED
    c/o WYCOMBE WANDERERS FOOTBALL CLUB
    ADAMS PARK HILLBOTTOM ROAD
    SANDS INDUSTRIAL ESTATE
    HIGH WYCOMBE
    BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
    HP12 4HJ
    Company No. 06199765

    Category 70110 | Development and selling of real estate

  7. Ian Harris says:

    Sorry Laneender Just saw you had posted this on BFP website – Credit is all yours

  8. Pauline says:

    Beneficial posting, I am checking back again on a regular to look for up-grades.

  9. R Lawton says:

    Paul asked the question “who is responsible for deciding whether or not the case has been made to justify building on green belt”.

    The answer is simple. The local planning authority (LPA) that is Wycombe District Council be it their planning committee or full council. If the application is permited the case will deemed to have been made.

    Isn’t it wonderful to be the judge and jury.

    It is not difficult to see, bearing in mind the financial commitment that the council has made and its intrandigence, which way the granting of a permission might go.

    Interestingly, the LPA has a duty to not harm the GB, and will therefore be required to act to protect it. I can’t wait to see how this they achieve.

    If your question refers to magnitude of fors and againsts to be put in the balence to determine the validity of a case on which one might proceed, I have not yet seen an effort by the LPA to furnish this detail, which would of course need to be even handed to be valid.

    At this time I do not believe there to be case of sufficient magnitude to overturn the protections inherant to the Green belt in this instance and in this location at Booker. However there seems a determination on the part of some to create such a case.

    I’m of the view the LPA have been negligent in protecting its and my GB with any degree of rigor, and for that they should be castigated and held to account.

    Regards All

  10. John Barlow says:

    I agree with R Lawton!

    But HOW do we “hold these people to account”? Well it seems obvious to me as Time, or at least Timing, is on Our Side. The key player in all this is Wycombe District Council and it just happens that WDC is having an election in a few weeks time. Since the most important thing to any sitting Councillor is to be re-elected then DECLARATIONS from all such candidates must be sought. Such declarations must be unequivocal and binding in opposition to the Stadium proposals.

    Other hopefuls must also state quite clearly their support.

    Any candidate not agreeing to this should not get our votes ~ whatever Political party they represent. Even better, in my opinion, is that GASP should either endorse candidates or put up our own candidates.

    Given the terrific public support for GASP then surely our voice couldbe clearly heard through the Council elections. Can you imaging the effect of unseating the Leader and Deputy Leader with GASP Party candidates?

  11. R Lawton says:

    I think another aproach might be to contact the conservative associations to deselect councilors not prepared to follow the concervative line and to provide candidates who will. We all know the conservative line is that they will protect the GB.

    regards all

  12. R Lawton says:

    The Chancellor in his budget speech stated that Green Belt controls were to be maintained.
    That should gladden the hearts of Booker objectors

    Regards all

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