Yeovil Town have written to South Somerset District Council to request a further delay in the planning decision that will be made for their Food Store application. The application has largely stalled in the past six months in terms of visible external progress. The original plan for a May 1st decision to be made saw the club request a delay in an effort to sort out problems with the application. There has now been a second request to delay from the club's planning representatives MWA, due to the application going beyond a September 7th deadline that was due to lead to an October decision.
As yet, there's no revised date requested or given by the two parties. The reason for the delay being requested centres around the need for the club to provide replacement playing fields to comply with National Planning Regulations, due to the loss of the two top pitches at Huish Park. These were not provided as part of the club's planning application, making for a fairly obvious breach, with numerous parties including Sport England (which sits under the Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport) drawing attention to this.
The club appears to have struggled to identify and purchase suitable land to comply with this. However, they met with local MP David Laws in July, and MWA believe that has proposed an alternative solution where the club provide SSDC with suitable funding to represent the value of the land, rather than to physically deliver the replacement pitches. MWA want the club to meet with SSDC's District valuer, as well as Steve Joel, who is Assistant Director for Health and Well Being, and has been involved in many of the area's community sports facility plans. MWA's Mark Wood explains:
"David Laws MP has brokered a deal 'in principle' whereby the Council is prepared to accept a financial payment which would be used in the provision of replacement playing fields in the local area. I understand that this was reached following a discussion with Mr (Ric) Pallister the chairman of SSDC. I also understand that the club is arranging further meetings with the District Valuer and Mr (Steve) Joel to reach agreement on the nature and scale of financial contribution."
Of course any deal 'in principle' does not mean at this stage that this is a route that both parties may find palatable. Any necessary payments to SSDC would eat into the money gained from the sale of the top pitches at Huish Park, whilst SSDC must consider whether the National Planning Regulations allow for such provisions to be made, and the need to protect themselves from any accusations of the payment being seen as a 'financial sweetener' for the deal to go through. For that reason, we'd expect any such arrangements to go through the SSDC Regulatory Committee.
Mr Wood also has added that he intends to respond to criticism of the club's application that were submitted by UBS Triton who own the freehold on the Quedam Shopping Centre. As reported last month, they are seeking to submit their own counter-proposals to build a Food Store on the existing Vincent's Garage site. Mr Wood says he will explain why that is not achievable:
"I shall be submitting a detailed response to the comments by the owners of the Quedam Centre and we can demonstrate that the Vincent Garage site is not suitable for the type and scale of development proposed at Huish Park."
The battle between those two applications is likely to become crucial for the club's own plans. If UBS Triton's own plans are submitted and approved, then justifying a second Food Store within the town area will prove difficult. Conversely, if the Vincent's Garage site is proven to be unsuitable, then it would add weight to MWA's own assessment of the lack of available Town Centre plots for a Food Store to be built. The original March 2011 plans for a 3,500 Capacity Stand to be built using the proceeds of the Food Store development still look as though they will take a long time before they can be fulfilled.
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