GASP Groups Against Stadium Proposals fights destruction of Historical Air Park

GASP unravels WDC FACT sheet

25 April 2011

WDC publishes a FACT sheet

WDC publishes a FACT sheet in light of some of the comments coming from GASP. See the online version at www.wycombe.gov.uk

Following is GASP's specific response to those 'FACTS'

Community Stadium
  • A football stadium for the exclusive use of Steve Hayes’ two professional clubs
  • Facilities to generate ‘non match-day revenue for the Clubs’ (source WDC web-site)
"Are the benefits compelling enough to justify the use of a site in the green belt"
  • Nine out of ten people in Wycombe reject the Council's justification (source BFP March '11, sample 1738)
"Will satisfactory transport and other supporting infrastructure be provided, mitigating impacts?"
  • In three years of planning the Council have failed to address transport issues
  • WDC have not costed the transport infrastructure but it will surely add to the cost of the project
  • Recent alterations to J11 of the M4 to deal with traffic from the Majeski stadium cost taxpayers c£30M

“Can the Council’s involvement be structured to protect the council tax-payer against risks?”

  • Yes it can – don’t invest public money in risky private enterprise ventures!
  • Nine out ten people believe WDC should make no further investment in this project (source BFP March ’11, sample 1738)
  • Eight out of ten reject the project even if the Council would make money on the initial investment spend(source BFP March '11, sample 1738)
The Potential Benefits
"Make Wycombe a sports destination which will attract companies and their employees by making Wycombe a more desirable location for employment and living as part of Wycombe's wider offer including the Eden centre"
  • The Chilterns is already a sports destination – it is a mecca for cycling and walking and has the only nationally recognized gliding club!
  • This plan will close the gliding club and endanger cyclists and walkers through massive increases in traffic on rural roads
  • Where is the evidence that a sports stadium features high on the list of priorities for companies considering relocation? The Council have presented none!
  • Which companies, specifically, plan to relocate to Wycombe? After three years the Council should have spoken to a long list of them….if they exist

“Maintain a high tech aeronautical presence on Wycombe Airpark where, with a realignment of the runways, most of the existing activities may continue”

  • ‘Most’ Many of the existing activities will not continue because the gliding club will be forced to close
  • The Civil Aviation Authority will not license an aerodrome within metres of a large capacity stadium and new housing development
  • The Council plan to use the run-way as parking space on match-days further restricting aeronautical activity
  • The Council have previously described aeronautical activity as ‘limited fixed wing’.  Does this mean helicopters only ?!.
  • Why would any high-tech aeronautical business commit to a site where aeronautics is clearly an after-thought?
“Raise the profile of the town and district”
  • As the home of London Wasps?
  • Or the destroyers of Green Belt and AONB?

“Retain and allow increased community outreach work done by both clubs in the Wycombe district. This would enable many more children and youths to benefit from professional coaching”

  • London Wasp’s outreach programme extends across the whole of South East England through Hampshire, Surrey and Kent aswell as Bucks.
  • Are London Wasps so spiteful that they would withdraw coaching if they move to another site in the South East?
  • London Wasps Community Foundation receive grants totaling c£65k towards the £70k they spend on their Community Outreach programme
  • BNU provide most of the coaching and they’re not so spiteful as to withhold it they don’t get given a shiny new stadium

“Provide a range of new community sports facilities within a sports village, as a state of the art centre of sporting excellence”

  • People expect swimming pools, tennis courts and a gym in a sports village but the council is planning none of these, only football and rugby pitches
  • Six rugby pitches are to be for the exclusive use of London Wasps (source WDC Sports Facilities Study, 2007)
  • The Council cannot afford to run additional facilities so existing facilities spread throughout the district will be closed (source WDC web-site, FAQs)
  • Why, after years of planning, have the Council not produced a definitive list of facilities that will be included; what are they hiding?

“Increased public access to the site which is currently largely closed to the public”

  • Are the Council seriously saying that we will have free access to the whole site? Of course not: people will be charged to attend matches and will not be welcome in the 800 new homes planned!
  • There are already public footpaths around the site but the Council plan to concrete over these as-well as the bridle-way from Handy Cross to create their dedicated match-day road

“Any new housing would be expected to meet high environmental and sustainability standards”

  • All new housing is legally required to meet high environmental standards
  • Is the Council suggesting that this will be a carbon neutral project?
  • Where are the Council’s plans to off-set the environmental impact of building work, additional traffic, home heating, travel etc?

“An estimated increase of £2.9m on the existing £7.9m contribution Wycombe
Wanderers and London Wasps already make to the Wycombe economy”

  • These figures come from a highly optimistic document prepared by Savills, the estate agents
  • The £7.9m figure is the total expenditure of the clubs made up largely of player wages. Most players do not live in Wycombe or contribute to the local economy
  • The claimed £2.9m increase is based on London Wasps increasing their average gate from c8500 to 16625, and Wanderers increasing from 4,522 to 16615  
  • In truth, rugby premiership attendances are falling and London Wasps are tumbling down the league making European competition a distant prospect

“Retain Wasps in the town and increase Wycombe Wanderers financial stability”

  • Wanderers financial stability is built upon ownership of Adams Park which generates an income – not least, rental from London Wasps
  • The expectation is that WWFC Ltd would sell Adams Park to generate capital that would be used to contribute towards fitting out a stadium.  There has been, to the best of my knowledge, nothing documented to suggest that WWFC would pay rent to Wasps.  The most likely scenario (currently) is that there would be a stadium management company set up.  This would be a joint venture between WWFC and London Wasps and possibly WDC.  WWFC and London Wasps would therefore pay rent to the stadium management company.
  • Nine out of ten Wanderers fans do not believe that a stadium at Booker has the best potential for them
Correcting the misconceptions
The project will result in a  “white elephant”

The clubs would have to demonstrate they had the financial ability to proceed before commencement

  • Why has this not been demonstrated already?

There would be an appropriate development agreement with obligations on the clubs

  • So far, there has been no obligation on the clubs, only expenditure by the Council

There should be an arrangement to prevent the clubs being sold separately from the stadium.

  • Given that the Council will own the stadium, this is not enforceable

The clubs could be responsible for financing the fit-out of the stadium and its external areas

  • Or could not

If one or both clubs were to go into administration there would most likely be a ‘re-birth‘.

  • Triumph of optimism over reality
240 Acres of Green Belt will be built on

Approximately 40 acres of the 240 acres is an adjacent field and can remain as a field

  • Or a car park?

About 23 acres of the Airpark is already built on.

  • Ten percent building is still Green Belt. 90% isn’t

Recent work suggests that only up to about 85 acres may be required for a Stadium and new building – and within that there would be open space

  • Open space is not the same as Green Belt

The site will be open to the public whereas currently it is not.

  • Open to the public if they pay for access and parking
The Stadium will generate a lot of noise

The airpark is within the corridor of the M40 motorway.

No pop concerts need to be permitted.
  • WDC web-site specifically cites the need for concerts to generate essential non match-day revenue for the rugby club

Public address systems can be based on “ambient sound,” in other words, noise of the surrounding environment.

  • Crowd noise from Adams Park is audible as far away as Lane End or West Wycombe and that is in a valley which naturally contains sound
  • 60% larger crowdson top of a hill will generate more noise carrying further

Most use would be in wintertime (the playing season is August to May for football).

  • Noise carries further in winter when there are no leaves on the trees
  • August is not wintertime!
  • There is a drive by some Rugby Union clubs to move the season to the Summer.
Junction 4 will grind to a halt

Matches would be at weekends and occasional evenings, so stadium traffic can avoid conflict with weekday peak- time traffic.

  • M40 traffic is congested on Sunday evenings precisely when premiership rugby matches are played
  • Weekday evening fixtures can only exacerbate rush-hour traffic
  • 800 new homes will generate thousands of additional car journeys every day
Using taxpayer’s money/assets to fund a commercial development

Enabling development creates value that does not currently exist (and cannot exist without the development it is enabling).

  • Selling off Green Belt land with planning permission to build houses will generate value under all circumstances
  • But it is still selling off the family silver, robbing future generations of our natural environment

Reinvesting such capital could result in a revenue stream which can be used to protect the Council Tax payer.

  • The Council plan only to generate enough capital to fund the stadium development so this is just wishful thinking
Thousands more cars on our roads will affect Handy Cross, A404, Marlow Town Centre, B482 to Lane End

A dedicated match day only access road from the C100 could take much of the traffic avoiding local roads in Marlow and High Wycombe.

  • But will do nothing to mitigate the additional traffic generated by 800 new homes and the location of all council sports facilities in one out of town site

A good traffic and travel plan can mitigate impacts and improve access.

  • After three years and £1/2m, where is the plan?
Development of 1,000 homes

Recent work suggests that the number of homes in the enabling development would be much less than this, probably no more than 600 homes and possibly less.

  • The Council change the number every week
  • Since they have no business plan and have not costed any of the promised environmental mitigations, the true cost can only go up and that means the number of houses will go up too
The Council has already taken the decision to proceed with the project

No decision has yet been taken by the Council.

  • "We had another very productive meeting with Wycombe council this morning [Wednesday] and are close to agreeing terms. We'd hope to be up and running in time for the start of the 2014-15 season” Mark Rigby, London Wasps Chairman Dec 2009

The Council has only agreed to explore further the potential of the Wycombe Air Park site for a community stadium and potential sports village.

  • The Council’s own timing plan says that contracts will be put in place this year after discussion at two further cabinet meetings
  • The Council plan no public scrutiny of the business plan
  • The Council do not plan to conduct any further public consultation
Get the latest news
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