Notes on Improvement & Review Commission meeting 12th January 2011
The Chairman of the Task & Finish Group (T&FG) Councillor Alex Collingwood presented its report on the Planning Aspect of the Community Stadium to the Improvement & Review Commission (I&RC) via a simplified power point presentation to suit the public gallery. The report itself was only circulated on the night which triggered complaints from members, in particular Cllr Langley, as this did not allow time to review the findings prior to the meeting and hence comment in detail was difficult. Cllr Collingwood explained that a great deal of work had been done in a short period and that the final meeting had only been completed the night before.
The terms of reference for the T&FG were threefold:-
1. To look at the wider impacts and implications, potential community needs/ benefits case and the feasibility of the three ‘short- listed’ sites including the criteria for the selection of these sites and the application of those criteria, with an overview of the consultation process if required.
2. To look at the process for delivering a site (if the project proceeds and a site is chosen) including exploration of whether this should be achieved as a change to the core strategy or as a ‘departure’ planning application, taking into account the Council’s different roles (planning/ property, etc) and deliverability/ achievable timescales.
3. To consider the business case for the Council’s involvement in a stadium project, the rational for a new stadium project, including partnership arrangements and cost and potential risks to the Council. NB This element is principally the subject of the next phase of the T&FG
In total the T&FG made 9 recommendations which are included in the Addendum report (available separately) including use of the green belt, short listed sites, single/split site options, deficiency of sporting provision, planning approach and the need for community engagement.
Following a lengthy debate lasting nearly 2 hours a number of these recommendations were amended to strengthen them.
It was clear that the T&FG and the I&RC were far from convinced of the financial case, the justification for the development on the green belt, the environmental and infrastructure implications and suggested that significantly more was required before it was deemed appropriate to proceed further with the project. Further work was also called for, in particular by Cllrs Rogerson, Malliff and Bazley, in revisiting the split site options, on the pros and cons of centralising sporting facilities and a call for improved public consultation over a 2 week period with four evening meetings to avoid the impression that the project was being slipped through.
These, of course, are only recommendations to the Cabinet but it was made clear by Cllr Collingwood that the Cabinet were required to accept ALL the recommendations before the project could proceed to the next stage or explain why they had been rejected. If the Cabinet chooses to reject ANY of the recommendations then the I&RC has the authority to call – in the decision and so on. Given the mood of the members of the Council, notably Cllrs Teesdale, Hayday, Rogerson, Bazley, Rassaq and Collingwood, it seems unlikely that such a rebuff would be taken lightly so the Cabinet response on Monday 17th January will be very interesting.
All in all this was a very positive meeting for GASP and we can all take heart from the report by the Task & Finish Group. However, this will be a long process and there is still much work to be done.