THE Save Coventry Speedway & Stox Campaign Group held a hugely successful Public Meeting at the Mercure Brandon Hall Hotel on Tuesday.
Over 300 speedway and stock car fans, and local residents, packed in to hear the latest updates on the battle against the plans to demolish the iconic Brandon Stadium and replace it with a housing estate – with no provision for any replacement.
The meeting was also supported by speedway riders including former British Champions Chris Harris and Danny King, stock car drivers and as many as five local Councillors.
There was live coverage on BBC Midlands Today in their early-evening programme and a further follow-up in the late bulletin, as well as coverage and interviews on local radio stations BBC Coventry & Warwickshire and Touch FM/Rugby FM.
The meeting opened with brief speeches from the leader of Rugby Borough Council, Michael Stokes, and the MP for Rugby, Mark Pawsey.
Cllr Stokes, whilst naturally having to declare impartiality in the case of an ongoing planning application, did confirm that in all of his time on the Council – over a decade – there has been no other local issue which has provoked a reaction on this scale.
Following our submission earlier in the day of our reaction to the Framptons ‘Needs Analysis’ document – seeking to make the case that Brandon Stadium is surplus to requirements in line with National Planning Policy, as other ‘alternative’ stadiums exist in the Midlands – Cllr Stokes was able to deliver an encouraging update.
He stated that due to the volume of material and the clear discrepancies between the submissions of the developers and ourselves, the Council will appoint an independent party to fully scrutinise both and seek expert advice in order to provide an informed conclusion to the Planning Officer.
We welcome this news, and having subsequently heard our assessment of the Turley (viability) and Framptons (needs assessment) documents, we are sure all those present at the meeting will share that opinion.
Cllr Stokes also confirmed the Planning Application will not be heard until after the Local Plan is finalised.
Mr Pawsey grew up in Binley Woods so has a full affinity with the area and the stadium itself, and he has always offered ongoing support to the Campaign.
He spoke as passionately as ever on the issues and his continued engagement, both locally and in Westminster, is of huge value to us.
The meeting presentation took the form of a descriptive slideshow which first briefly summarised events leading up to the previous Public Meeting in October 2016.
We then updated the events of the last year, including the further inadequacies of security at the stadium prior to the settlement of the Council’s Community Protection Order, the submission of planning documents and public reaction, the Local Plan hearings, media coverage, and other events/meetings attended.
There was then a discussion of the Local Plan process, why we sought to strengthen it in terms of protecting facilities such as Brandon, and what the Government-appointed inspector said following the hearings.
We then provided a selection of material produced either by or on behalf of the developers seeking to prove the stadium was disused and unviable with no interest forthcoming for re-opening – and then their subsequent, recent submissions stating there was no ongoing need for Brandon due to an apparent range of ‘alternative’ venues elsewhere in the Midlands.
Whereas much of the developers’ information was based on misinformation and untruths, we were able to provide clear, indisputable evidence to disprove their claims.
We also discussed the ongoing Brandon & Bretford Neighbourhood Plan, and following a brief Q&A session we ended with the following conclusions and recommendations:
1. Endorses the ongoing activities of the Save Coventry & Stox Campaign Group including its representations on the Rugby Local Plan, Brandon Estates’ planning application for residential redevelopment on the site of Brandon Stadium, and the Brandon & Bretford Neighbourhood Plan;
2. Calls on Rugby Borough Council to a) reject Brandon Estates’ Planning Application and b) support reinstatement of Brandon Stadium for Speedway and Stock Car Racing at the earliest opportunity.
3. Confirms that the Coventry/Brandon Bees should race in the Rugby/Coventry area and that the relocation of the team to Leicester Speedway is not a realistic solution.
But the most important part of the evening was the reaction and turnout from the sporting and local communities. To fill a room with over 300 people on a midweek evening was further proof of just what this issue means to everyone, even though there has been no racing for over two years – something the developers will never understand.
Campaign Group Spokesman Jeff Davies said: “From our perspective, the meeting could not have gone better. The media coverage with local radio stations and BBC Midlands Today present throughout was brilliant and the messages of support, both directly and via a massive social media response is incredible.
“People who attended the meeting are now better informed about the situation, understand what the issues are and why the process is taking so long.
“We have put an immense amount of time and effort into this fight and to see so many passionate people supporting the campaign makes all that effort worthwhile.
“Speaking on behalf of all the members of the Campaign Group, I promise speedway fans, stock car fans and local residents, we will fight this to the very end and will not give up.
“Despite being up against wealthy developers, with their PR people, their solicitors and their consultants, it's a battle we've always believed we can win and eventually bring the sports 'home' for future generations to enjoy.”
*WE have had various requests to make the slides from the presentation available to view online. We have respectfully decided that would not be appropriate, due to the fact that taken in isolation they could cause confusion – we ran the meeting with the slides complementing the narration, and they by no means provide a full record of what was said. However, we are more than willing to engage with anyone who contacts the Campaign Group, and are happy to take them through any of the issues discussed in as much detail as they wish.