THE Campaign Group can confirm that a meeting took place earlier this year involving ourselves and representatives of developers Investin plc (Brandon Estates).
From our perspective, this meeting was to assess whether any common ground could be reached in terms of our joint objectives and to attempt to drive forward towards a mutually beneficial solution concerning Brandon Stadium.
A meeting between the two parties was first suggested in the Independent Report commissioned by Rugby Council following the overwhelming response to the initial Planning Application, and our own representations.
In addition to making it abundantly clear that the case for development had not been made, the Independent Report mentioned that such a meeting could prove helpful.
Following various delays last winter, the meeting finally took place in mid-March, shortly before the first national lockdown, and had been agreed to involve three representatives from each of the parties.
On the day before the meeting, however, the developers quite remarkably insisted that one of the Campaign Group’s representatives be barred from attending due to his profession as a journalist.
Despite this unreasonable demand, both in terms of timing and the basis behind it, we proceeded with the meeting in the spirit of attempting to forge a working relationship, and it therefore went ahead with three representatives from the developers (including their former agents Framptons) and two from the Campaign Group.
During the meeting, several scenarios were put forward by the Campaign Group, and the details of that discussion will naturally remain confidential.
Whilst the developers’ representatives made it clear they were still confident of achieving planning permission (despite the first application stalling and remaining undetermined), the meeting ended with an agreement that they would investigate what appeared to be the most feasible of the proposals, and report back to the Campaign Group.
They were also put into contact with the party interested in purchasing the stadium for it to be restored for sporting use, although details of previous approaches had been readily available through our documentation.
Following the meeting, we contacted Framptons to suggest that out of courtesy we should provide Rugby Council with a report on what had been discussed, as the Council were aware that the meeting was taking place.
It was agreed that we would write the draft, and we therefore produced a true and accurate record of what had been said, and the arrangements going forward.
Unfortunately the developers vetoed this account, striking through almost every point which was made, leaving a version which would have provided the Council with little or no information in addition to what they already knew.
Several months passed after the meeting, ostensibly due to the pandemic, although we are not naïve enough to believe that no work was taking place during that time.
Having received no response on the matter the developers had undertaken to communicate with us, we re-established contact in July and were informed that any work on the alternative strategy we had proposed had been put “on the back burner.”
This very much solidified our view at the time of the meeting, which was that the developers saw it merely as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, ie. that they had followed the recommendation of the Independent Report in terms of being seen to have explored possible scenarios with the Campaign Group, but would then be able to state in a subsequent application that none had proved feasible.
We attended the meeting in good faith, but sadly as nine months have now passed with no response back from the developers, we have to conclude that this good faith was not replicated.
Since the meeting, the developers have sacked Framptons as planning consultants, and an offer to buy the stadium and return it to its proper sporting use has been made by a highly credible individual. Six months after this offer was submitted, it has been neither accepted nor rejected.
We will continue to fight as hard as ever for Brandon Stadium and for the return of speedway and stock car racing to the area some four years after they were disgracefully evicted.