GASP Groups Against Stadium Proposals fights destruction of Historical Air Park

WDC meeting with GASP

10 March 2011

Background

  • WDC requested the meeting on 3rd March
  • The aim of the meeting was to ‘listen and enter constructive discussions to cover issues and concerns that exist about the project’
  • Attendees from WDC were to include
      • Cllr Lesley Clarke (Chairperson)
      • Cllr Tony Green
      • Cllr Roger Columb
      • Karen Satterford (CEO)
      • Jerry Unsworth (Head of Planning)
      • Stephen Meah-Sims (Head of Communications)
  • On Thursday 10th March attendees were confirmed as above with Ian Westgate (Corporate Director) instead of Karen Satterford

Meeting

  • GASP attended the meeting as requested by WDC and protested that having just five working days warning did not provide sufficient time to prepare for the meeting
  • Cllrs Clarke and Columb failed to attend the meeting
  • No explanation or apologies were proffered by the Council
  • Hugh Griffiths (Property) attended the meeting

Discussion

  • In the absence of nominated Chairperson, Cllr Green chaired the meeting
  • Cllr Green stated that the Council is starting a new phase of consultation regarding the proposed stadium development. The purpose of these meetings was to ‘hear people’s views and concerns’ and ‘take a note of these concerns’
  • Cllr Green stated that the Council had ‘decided on the site’ and further consultation was to inform how the project proceeds
  • Cllr Green stated that the leaflet distributed by GASP the previous weekend was, he believed, inaccurate and misleading
    • GASP said they were aware of one inaccuracy over-stating the attendances at WWFC
    • Cllr Green said that the reference to ‘concreting over 240 acres of Green Belt was inaccurate. Jerry Unsworth explained that, although the site is 240 acres, not all of it would be built upon
    • GASP asked how much of the site would be built upon
    • WDC were unable to answer this but said it would be revealed in the Planning Application
  • Cllr Green stated that he believed the consultation about the development had been ‘fine’ and did not understand why people claimed it was flawed
    • GASP gave examples of flaws:-
      • Ineffective publicity about the project in advance of the consultation
      • Quantitative measurement restricted to six weeks rather that twelve
      • Focus groups run after the main consultation rather than informing the process
      • Lack of clarity about the various options eg selling land for housing to fund a ‘sports village’
      • Lack of an obvious ‘do nothing’ option
      • Reporting that gives equal weight to a single unattributed comment from a focus group as to clear views of well attended public meetings
    • Jerry Unsworth assured the meeting that he had experience running numerous similar consultations
    • GASP suggested that the consultation had focused upon the merits of different sites rather than the merits of the project as a whole
  • GASP asked WDC to share the single compelling reason why this project was such a pressing priority for the council
    • Jerry Unsworth said it was to create ‘social and economic benefits’ for the district. Pushed to explain these benefits he said:-
      • The importance of the professionalclubs to the district
      • Well-being, vision profile and kudos for the district
      • Providing sports coaching and encouraging a sports lifestyle
      • Jobs
      • Sports facilities
    • Hugh Griffiths said it wasn’t solely about economic benefits but about the community. He said that the development would create a centre for Research & Development about sport
    • Jerry Unsworth said ‘If the council doesn’t do something, WASPs will go’
    • WDC stressed the importance of WWFC in the plan
    • Jerry Unsworth said the Planning Application would detail how the development would ‘ensure the long-term sustainability of the clubs’
    • Cllr Green said ‘ the council doesn’t see another way of doing this’ (creating long-term sustainability for the clubs)
    • Cllr Green said that he believed the sports village would become a centre of excellence for youth sports. Specifically he anticipated Youth Academies for rugby and football with funding from national bodies. Cllr Green believed these academies would provide coaching for amateur clubs and aspiring professionals
    • GASP expressed surprise that after so much time and money had been spent on the project the Council were unable to express the single compelling argument for this project in clear terms
    • GASP said the various reasons given did not appear to justify building on Green Belt land, the environmental damage or the upheaval to the community
    • GASP questioned whether any of the reasons given justified the building of a new stadium as the benefits could be achieved with the existing stadium
  • GASP pleaded with the Council to give long consideration to the irreparable damage that the development would do to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by building a stadium and housing on top of a hill and hence visible for many many miles
  • GASP pleaded that the Council also consider the noise and light pollution created by such a stadium
    • Hugh Griffiths said that a hill-top stadium of increased capacity need not be noisier than Adams Park sited in a valley
    • Hugh Griffiths stated that noise restriction measures would be identified in the Planning Application
  • WDC explained that they could not build a business plan for the project until the site is agreed and they have a design for the stadium
  • GASP said that in the private sector a business plan would have been put in place at the start of the project long before authorizing expenditure of up to £500k
  • A spend of £308k on the project had been quoted in December, GASP asked if much more money had been sent since then.Ian Westgate said the expenditure on the project was closer to £308k than £500k and that no more monies were to be spent by the Council before the Planning Application was made.
  • GASP asked why the Council failed to mention WASP’s or Wanderers in their communications about the development, specifically the pre-consultation press release and the current issue of the council magazine
    • Cllr Green said that the Council assumed everybody knows that a Community Stadium is for the use of the professional clubs
    • GASP pleaded with the Council to use clear language in communications and avoid phases such as ‘community stadium’ and ‘enabling development’ which fail to communicate specific intentions
  • GASP asked the Council to share their plan to progress the project including further consultations
    • Ian Westgate said that this plan would be made public in the ‘next few weeks’.  The plan would include major milestones/decision points and identify future stages of public consultation

Next Actions

WDC plan to meet with various groups and interested individuals and listen to their concerns

WDC to publish project plan, showing stages, milestones and decision points and dates within the next few weeks

GASP offered to help the Council engage the community in the project

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GASP's Response

GASP response to stadium proposal decision 19 July 2011Read More>>

link to blog
Thanks to Paul Baker, Adrian Metcalf

GASP is a coalition of parish councils, residents' associations, sports clubs and conservation bodies
from around the Wycombe and Marlow districts who believe the current stadium proposals are flawed