Yeovil Town Football Club have published a three year strategy plan for the future direction of the club. The document has been published to cover the period between 2014 and 2017 and outlines what the board believe it will achieve in the event of their long-standing Food Store plans being approved by South Somerset District Council. The document, which is dated January 1st 2014, is an updated version of a document that was originally provided as part of the January 2012 Planning Application, that remained dormant for much of 2013.
The update has been done in an effort to support their Food Store application, which the club still hope will be heard on March 5th 2014, despite an SSDC view that there were still outstanding aspects of the application that had not been satisfied. The key development outside of that document is that Yeovil Town have submitted a formal offer to SSDC of one million pounds which they say will "enable the Council to secure and develop a site capable of accommodating two sports pitches together with changing and associated facilities."
This offer is intended to satisfy the need under the National Planning Policy Framework which requires all applicants planning to build on Public Open Space or Sports Pitches to "be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location." If this offer was accepted by SSDC, it would effectively shift the responsibility for providing such replacement facilities onto the Council rather than the Football Club. Although the offer letter doesn't state it, logic would assume that SSDC would need to have that valuation independently assessed and kept at arm's distance from the SSDC Planning Committee to avoid it being viewed as a 'sweetener' for the application.
The main document, entitled "The Future Of Yeovil Football" and subtitled "Special circumstances support document for the Food Store Planning Application on the Huish Park Stadium Site" contains some background information relating to the football club's history and its current position, for those less familiar with the club. The report is not directly a part of the actual Planning Application, but adds additional detail for what issues the club faces and what it believes the approval of the Food Store application would bring to the club, with the aim of supporting the core application details. The key highlights of that document are as follows (with actual document text in quoted italics, and our interpretations in normal text):
Stategic issues facing Yeovil Town Football Club:
* "The development of the professional football resources to maintain and progress the Club's Football League Championship status."
* "The development of the stadium facilities to meet with Football League criteria and to provide essential revenues to finance the football and community activities."
* "A regeneration plan for a commercial development on the near derelict and underutilised Huish Park site that will generate the capital necessary to deliver the YT Group Stategic Plans by 2018."
The club outline their stategic plan as having the following key aims:
i) "To improve the playing and supporter facilities at Huish Park to Championship League standards by 2016" - elsewhere in the document it states the club are committed to staying at Huish Park, although the whole strategy cites it is based on the scenario that the Food Store plans will be approved.
ii) "To enhance facilities for families at Huish Park and enable the Club to maintain its Family Excellence reputation and awards from the Football League."
iii) "Regenerating the near derelict 25 acre Huish Park site, to provide essential and long overdue funds for modernising, upgrading and extending the existing stadium facility and thereby providing new sports and leisure opportunities"
They also outline the benefits to the Yeovil Town Community Sports Trust and Yeovil Town Ladies and their newly elected status as members of the FA Women's Super League.
In terms of the Huish Park site, the document provides a few facts and key statements that are relevant to the development. The most relevant can be summarised as follows:
a) Of the 25 acres at Huish Park, 20 acres are under the freehold ownership of the Football Club. The 4.29 acres of land adjacent to Western Avenue is under a 999 year leasehold agreement with SSDC - broadly speaking this is the land at the lower end of the main club car park, and runs up to the furthest of the two top pitches.
b) "There is an existing covenant on the site held by Abbey Manor Homes Ltd, having been imposed in 1989, which restricts the sale of alcohol to a small area of The Stadium"
c) "To meet with the Stadium Licencing Authority criteria there is an urgent need to provide a new Stadium Safety Control Box in the new stand"
d) "The traffic and pedestrian accesses to the stadium behind the North End Stand need improvements, to comply with public safety requirements"
e) "The Club urgently needs to raise the standard of facilities for its supporters and to meet the criteria required by the Stadium Sports Ground Safety Licensing Authority and the Football League"
The club confirm that they will need to have a "Change of Use" approval given as part of their application to enable the land at the north end of the stadium to be used for the Food Store. They say the ultimate aim is to achieve the following:
i) "To raise sufficient funds by removing the existing restrictive covenants and to regenerate the under utilised and sub-standard land around the stadium"
ii) "To provide alternative and equivalent Public Open Space recreation land for use by the community in the Brympton Parish or pay to SSDC cash compensation for the loss of this facility" - as above the club's latest position is to offer the sum of money
iii) "To provide a full size replacement artificial football pitch and grass pitches for community use in the Yeovil district"
iv) "Increase the community use of the Stadium and site by integrating its existing YT Community Sports Trust Programmes through a partnership agreement with SSDC"
The document offers a bleak outlook based on the possibility that the planning application is not ultimately followed through, stating:
"The Club can no longer continue to live from 'hand to mouth' each season, and its long term future will be decided on the regeneration plans for the Huish Park site. Failure to succeed with this current planning application which will allow for the development of the stadium site will consign the Club to play in the lower leagues and possibly return to Non-League football."
If the development is followed through and the Food Store is built, the club's subsequent development proposals and projects will entail the provisioning of: An all-seater 10,000 capacity stadium, containing meeting rooms, conference facilities and offices (including the removal of the current portacabins), new supporter social facilities, community areas including new park football facilities, a new control box to meet Football Licensing Standards and provision of new training grounds for the first team squad.
A few of these are expanded upon, including plans to reconstruct and reroute the main entrance to the stadium on Boundary Road which they believe will lead to "a more substantial and safer highway for two way traffic and pedestrian walkways across the North End of the Stadium". They will also "seek to remove the existing restrictive alcohol covenant from all areas of Huish Park and provide permanent entertainment and leisure facilities for the Club's supporters and non-football customers on the site".
In addition, they plan to replace the current artificial pitch with a full size 3G artificial pitch (similar to that used at Bucklers Mead). They will also seek "at least 12 acres of land in the Yeovil District ... to provide four top quality pitches on which the professional players can train". There are also plans to enhance the facilities at the Alvington site that is owned by AgustaWestland but is used by both Yeovil Town and the Community Sports Trust on a lease arrangement.
It should be noted that there are no firm dates put on these activities, apart from the aspirational target that bounds this three year plan to be delivered by 2018 - and is based upon the massive assumption that the club's Food Store plans can be approved. There is little to indicate what the 'Plan B' would be if this does not happen. The document's conclusion has this to say about the football club's plans:
"The revenue raised from the Food Store development will be used to upgrade and improve existing facilities; including the grass pitches (6 acres), the artificial pitch, the car parks, and most of the stadium supporters' facilities which are nearing the end of their usefulness, and are no longer fit for purpose."
"It will also enable the club to raise new and bigger income streams, to meet the ever increasing costs of running a professional Football Club, and to bring the existing stadium facilities up to Football Licencing and Football League standards, by 2018."
As yet, there's no firm indication as to whether the club's planning application will be heard by March 5th, or whether this additional information will require it to be heard at a later date. However, a letter that has gone out to local residents recently from SSDC which makes reference to the additional information provided as part of the application asks interested parties to respond by March 7th 2014. As all planning applications are subject to public consultation - with the views of local residents and local businesses key in that consultation, this would point to the actual hearing being held beyond that date.
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