To: Members of the Improvement & Review Commission
I understand that at this evening’s Special IRC Meeting at High Wycombe Town Hall a vote will be taken to decide whether the proposed stadium project should be called-in and subjected to additional scrutiny by IRC. I felt therefore that a timely reminder of some of the issues might be of value to you in making your decision.
I understand the reasons for the call-in are:
(1) Insufficient work undertaken to warrant the decision to explore only Wycombe Air Park to the exclusion of looking at alternate sites.
(2) An explanation is required from Cabinet of the very special circumstances that justify the Council’s own Greenbelt and AONB policies (including GB9 & GB10)
(3) That Cabinet needs to investigate the split-site option before pursuing a singe-site option
For points (1) and (3) it is important to emphasise that the feasibility of alternate sites should be based upon the facilities that are required. These, in turn, are based on what the Community Needs for facilities are. I would urge everybody involved to re-read the Council’s own Community Sporting Needs Assessment (2009-2012) that identifies aspirational desires of local sporting clubs and does not provide an assessment of the validity of what the true needs are. Additionally, the document itself describes how community needs are best served by placing facilities across the District and not placing them in a single location. Research published by Sport England also suggests that better utilisation of existing facilities is more sensible than building additional ones. By establishing what the true needs are and improving existing utilisation WDC would be able to more easily accommodate any needs across multiple sites.
For point (2) I cannot provide a counter argument against the Cabinet’s explanation until it is made public. However I understand that several inferences have been made which are worth consideration, namely:
(a) Economic benefit to the area of a new stadium – Savill’s were commissioned to produce a Socio-Economic and Community Impact Assessment for WDC’s Property Services. Even skimming through the report shows a number of fundamentally flawed assumptions – e.g. when estimating match day expenditure the minimum average spectator attendance for WWFC is given as 5,378 with an indication that this is a pessimistic estimate. The reality is that WWFC attendance continues to drop and the estimated average attendance for this season is below 4,500 (as identified in WDC’s “Transportation Issues Scoping Paper – September 2010”). Likewise for London Wasps, the low estimate provided is 11,375 against an actual average of 8,400. The reality is that even the pessimistic version of the Economic Case identified in Savill’s assessment is overly optimistic.
(b) Providing a better financial basis for Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps – Currently Adams Park is under utilised and both Clubs are consistently loss making. To suggest that increasing capacity would increase attendance which would return the Clubs to profit is a completely flawed argument. Increasing the venue size and introducing more overheads is likely to lead to increased losses.
(c) Community benefit to local schools, etc through the Club outreach programmes – It should be remembered that London Wasps provides community programmes that spread across the South-East of England and that are not confined to just High Wycombe. If London Wasps therefore chose to move then there is no reason why they should discontinue their existing support.
(d) Providing WDC with an increased revenue stream through either participation in a Stadco partnership with the Football & Rugby Clubs or by adopting a Landlord-Tenant model. – To date WDC has spent over £300,000 on the issues & options analysis in order to primarily benefit Wycombe Wanderers Ltd, London Wasps Holding Ltd and Wycombe Sports Development Ltd. In a similar project, Deloittes recommended to Llanelli Council that financial guarantees be obtained both from the Clubs and (because of their Ltd status) the Directors who were financially involved. I see from the Cabinet minutes of 17 Jan that Recommendation 8d (Commitment) sought a clear and irrevocable commitment from WWFC and London Wasps and that this recommendation was not accepted. I would commend everybody on IRC to ensure that not only is 8d be adopted but that it be extended to ensure legally binding commitments from the Club Directors too.
It is clear from reading the various consultation reports that have been produced to date that there has not been a robust case provided to proceed with the project in its current form. Can I therefore urge you to carefully consider whether you believe that sufficient facts have been established before Cabinet attempts to proceed with this project any further.
Chairman – GASP (Groups Against Stadium Proposals)