It’s a plan, but is it a good one?

At last we see a plan. £500,000 of ratepayers’ money has been spent so far on investigations into the new stadium proposals without the public having a basic idea of what we’re being offered and whether the figures can work.

We now understand that the project is intended to be built in stages, the first phase being the stadium. Sports clubs who are attracted by the hype, be warned. All other elements, such as a
Badminton Complex, will need to go through the usual planning process and will have to be fully funded by the sports clubs themselves, not WSDL. Let’s be clear, WSDL gets what it wants now. The community has to pay for its own facilities and might or might not get them in the future.

The clubs argue that the project is a good idea as it will create 400 new jobs. Really? The Community Needs and Benefits Statement from the 2010 consultation referred to 60 new full-time jobs. Presumably the extra 340 are part-time match-day jobs. In employment terms, is this a good trade for the 300 skilled, service industry careers that are existing at the air park that will be lost should the stadium development go ahead?

Around 2,500 car parking spaces have been conveniently omitted from the artists impression shown in the BFP last week. You may also note that the runway runs off the edge of the site and the land rises gently behind the stadium. This is surprising as the Air Park is on a plateau and the land behind actually drops down towards Marlow. The plateau effect means noise and light will be a big issue with a 24-7 stadium. The artist’s impression is a pretty picture with little veracity behind it.

We are told that Council funding will be limited to enabling land for 506 houses, on 32 acres. Those plots would have to very small, so small that it’s unlikely they’ll command a high enough price to match the funds needed, especially in the current depressed housing market. This means that more land would be required for more houses, thus ironically reducing the space for any ‘Sports Village’.

Let us try to understand the logic of the numbers. The business plan suggests that the ‘new stadium effect’ produces an increase in attendance of up to 40%. It is rather unusual, then, that the clubs have used increases of well over 100% in their financial predictions. WSDL has produced no evidence of where these new fans will come from, just the vague hope that ‘if we build it and they will come.’

In reality attracting additional fans to matches is difficult in this financial climate. Furthermore, within a 35 mile radius there are four rugby and six football clubs, all doing their utmost to increase fan numbers. Massive planned hikes in ticket prices hardly suggests a thought-through strategy for persuading fans to transfer their allegiance to a new venue.

WSDL dismisses the transport issues that will inevitably occur if the stadium goes ahead. A 24-7 venue, with 500+ houses with a couple of cars each? The chaos is best illustrated by the times the  M40 is closed and traffic is diverted through Stokenchurch and the B482 Marlow Road, or simply at John Lewis sale time. WSDL has outlined 4 entrance road and 5 exits, which may get cars off site quickly, but will dump them straight onto local roads. In fact, the fifth exit they specify is currently a pleasant public footpath towards Lane End in the middle of AONB and the proposed new road from J4 would also carve through what are currently green fields.

Let’s look at WSDL’s proposed mortgage plan. What WSDL is actually proposing is for WDC to turn down the current rent for a reduced payment of possibly £150k. WDC will get this if the teams perform better and if the stadium naming rights are sold and if their high risk strategy of ‘if we build it, they will come’ pans out and more fans miraculously appear in their thousands. The undeniable facts are: we’re living in straitened times, sponsorship is reducing and match attendances are in long-term decline. If it doesn’t work, Wycombe
District Council will shoulder the deficit, not WSDL. There are too many ‘ifs’ for our liking.

Like much of the hype from WSDL, the facts are rather different to the publicity.

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2 Responses to It’s a plan, but is it a good one?

  1. Valerie Pendle says:

    no surprises here then

  2. R Lawton says:

    Is the plan a good one I don’t think so.

    Just thought you might like to know that if a developer defaults on his structure plan payments the land owner is liable to make good those payments. In this case WDC. i.e. you and me. Do I see this featuring in the business plan? The infrastructure charge + the stadium charge + the sports village charge will make the 500 or so properties at Booker unaffordable and is the reason the planners were talking of 2000 plus properties. Even this number, is I feel to low to be sustainable.

    Come on GASP give them a plan that is both viable, innovative and affordable which avoids the destruction of swathes of GB and adequately provides for the populace.

    Please avoid iconic structures as they tend to cost to much and leak.

    Regards all

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