THE Campaign Group would like to take the opportunity to wish all speedway and stock car supporters our compliments of the festive season.
We can also provide a brief update of the current position as we approach the end of 2019, the third year in which the sports have been absent from the area following the closure of Brandon Stadium by its current owners.
The speed of the process remains frustratingly slow; however, there have been three highly significant events this year which we summarise below.
First, the final and published version of the Brandon and Bretford Neighbourhood Plan in April firmly stated the view of the local community that the stadium should be retained as a sports facility for speedway and stock car racing. It also stated that the community is not persuaded by arguments that the stadium is not, or could not be made, viable at its location.
Then there was the completion of the Rugby Local Plan, where the Government Inspector recognised the significance of Brandon Stadium as a sports venue, and therefore ensured an important amendment to the Plan to offer additional protection and safeguarding to existing sports and recreational buildings where there is clear ongoing need.
Finally, there was the submission of the Independent Report commissioned by the Council, which fully aligned with our own representations and made it abundantly clear that the active Planning Application has totally failed to comply with National Planning Policy Framework guidelines.
The Report was also extremely respectful of the significance of Brandon as an important sporting venue, and highlighted numerous examples to confirm that the applicants’ case that the stadium is surplus to requirements, and that there is no ongoing need for the sports in the area, is completely deficient.
No reaction has been submitted by the developers to this Report, but it is clear that the prospects of their planning application being approved are now far lower than they were twelve months ago.
Indeed, we cannot see any possible justification for approval given the weight of evidence against it, as to do so would mean Rugby Council would be ignoring the findings of the independent consultant’s report that they themselves commissioned.
Those who thought, and probably hoped, that opposition to the scheme would weaken over time will have been left disappointed, as the clamour for the sports to return is in fact stronger than ever.
Over that time, we have refuted every argument put forward by the developers, many of which appeared to be made in the hope that they would be read and accepted at face value by those with no real understanding of how the stadium operated, and what it meant to the local and far wider communities.
We have rejected claims of non-viability and of no ongoing need. We have dismissed the ludicrous argument that the failed re-location of Coventry Speedway to Leicester in the National League was a satisfactory solution for supporters; and that suitable alternative sites exist in the local area to satisfy the needs of the stock car fraternity.
All of our submissions have been made with detailed evidence, the strength of which was a major reason for the independent report being commissioned.
What happens next, given the difficult position the developers now find themselves in, is uncertain - however, we are encouraged by an indication that they are prepared to meet with the representatives from the Campaign Group to discuss options.
There are no indications at present of a date for the Planning Application to be taken to Committee. This has been delayed on multiple occasions over the last two years due to the requirement for further information.
This information now appears to be in place, and it is clear from all of the documents submitted in response to the Planning Application that the needs of the sports should be considered before any development - something which should plainly have occurred in the first place before the outrageous events of three years ago.
The battle to bring the sports back started at that time - and it will continue for as long as it takes.
We do have the intention to stage another Public Meeting after the success of events held in autumn 2017 and 2018, but we feel the time to do that is when there is major new information to present.
In the meantime, please be assured that the work very much continues to bring about the rightful outcome which we all want to see, and we remain optimistic that this can be achieved.
We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hope that 2020 proves a year to remember for all the right reasons.