GASP is delighted at the decision reached by WDC’s Cabinet Members at Monday’s meeting to end the stadium project. Listening to the applause at the meeting, that delight was shared by many of the Councillors and members of the Public in the gallery and overflow room too.
Throughout the process we have stuck to facts and rational analysis. This has helped build our credibility and enabled us to increase support from the various Parish Councils, residents associations, community groups, amateur sports clubs and local societies. From these disparate groups we’ve formed a powerful voice that the Council has listened to.
Members of GASP have spent many hours examining the flawed consultation process, the myriad of background documentation (some of which could be obtained only through Freedom of Information requests) and the business case. It was through much investigation and analysis that we were able to show for example that the “successful” projects used in WDC’s Business Case were actually examples of failure! From our analysis we provided Councillors with a compelling justification against selling off Council-owned assets to pay for a stadium.
The entire project, which to date has cost around £500,000, was based on a flawed consultation process which didn’t give the community the facts to make an informed choice. How the Council was able to incur significant costs, at a time of austerity, is something that needs to be examined so that the same mistake isn’t made again.
Major projects often gain momentum such that they become impossible to stop because of the fear of ending something upon which so much has been spent already. To call time out on this project shows that WDC’s Cabinet members were brave enough to undertake a calm, considered and rational analysis of the business case and weren’t swayed by pretty pictures or taunts by opponents that they weren’t “forward thinking”. On the contrary, they looked at the proposal with eyes wide open and did a properly balanced assessment of risks versus possible benefits.
The documentation that Cabinet was provided with did not provide a compelling justification for WDC to provide £31 Million, despite the claims of financial, health and economic well-being. The fact that WSDL was unable to secure funding for the remaining amount shows that from a business perspective there was no case. For the Council to be expected to provide funding, in addition to the original £31 Million, simply did not make sense.
To conclude, the business case was not viable and, despite the last minute tagging on of a “community sports village”, the community did not support it. The Green Belt, AONB and Air Park are seen as valuable assets that should be retained.
Moving forwards, members of GASP will be happy to work with the Council and local sports groups in order to ensure that genuine shortfalls in sporting facilities are addressed. We see the Cabinet decision as a success, rather than a “win”, because if you think only in terms of “winners” then there must be “losers” and that needn’t be the case.
Chairman – GASP (Groups Against the Stadium Proposals)