Sunday, 23 March 2014

Stadium update: too much secrecy

The fate of the Stadium for Cornwall project is too important to be decided behind closed doors.  When there was the big debate over the business plan in 2012 councillors were told that the details of it had to be kept confidential.  That secrecy may have helped vested interests but it was no help to the people of Cornwall.
We must stop it happening again.
Everybody has been working on the assumption that the Council's option over the stadium site would allow the Stadium project to proceed IF the Council supported it and money was found to deliver it.
This is entirely consistent with what Rob Saltmarsh of INOX said on Radio Cornwall last week.  The Council has allowed us to get nearly to the end of a (secret) nine month option period and has done nothing to disabuse us. Kevin Lavery's promotion of this project led people to believe that all we needed was the will to spend the money.
Unless the Council take up INOX's offer (which I asked for and Rob Saltmarsh agreed to on the Radio) there is now only 16 days to go to the 9 April deadline when a decision over the land option needs to be made.
So, I feel I am bound to let people know as much as I do. Officers are advising that if the Council exercise the option to take the stadium site, then it can ONLY be used to lay out playing fields and maintain these in perpetuity.  The phrase " ... public open space for outside sports and ancillary uses" means no stadium.  The relevant extract from the Section 106 agreement signed last July is attached. 
The Council could opt for the E5 land instead. This would meet the needs for outdoor sports space for the new Langarth development. However, there would be no lever for the Council or anyone else to obtain the stadium site. The option over it would lapse.  The planning permission for the stadium would stand but there would be nothing to prevent INOX submitting another application for a different development - housing, retail... on the stadium site.
If the scope of section 106 obligations have to be so narrowly construed, it would impact not only on a community stadium on this site but also on any other.
Back in 2011 the Council obtained legal advice that it would not be possible to require a developer to build a stadium or make a capital contribution to it.  If that advice should be read as going so far as saying that a developer cannot be required to provide open space on which a community stadium may ultimately be built, then it would have been a great deal fairer to all concerned, if that had been made public.
Certainly, it is contrary to the advice I received from a planning officer at the time.
Sorting out the correct legal framework within which the Council must work is also relevant to the imminent application from INOX for a further site at West Langarth which is apparently to fund the building of the stadium and its running costs.  It would also affect any similar proposals coming forward from developers at Fraddon or elsewhere.
If developers (or anyone) want to make a contribution over and above their usual obligations arising out of the planning process, I am sure a way can be found.
The closed door secrecy in which this project started was a gross mistake which looks like it is still rolling on.  Those of us in the opposition group can only ask the questions and hold the administration to account.
I do not control the planning processes and have no influence over them other than as a backbench councillor but I am doing my best to allow the public to know the facts.

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