Yeovil Town appear to be taking the first steps towards submitting further planning applications connected with their plans to build a new Food Store on land at Huish Park. The club's representatives MWA Planning have written to South Somerset District Council, outlining their plans to formally link the Food Store development to other planned future works.
Early reaction from Brympton Parish Council to the plans submitted to South Somerset District Council, included their view that the club's submission "lacked plans for the upgrade of the football facilities". Meanwhile the SSDC Planning Policy unit raised concerns in their report at the lack of alternative training pitches or land that would provide "equal community benefit" if the current training pitches are dug up.
Put in simple terms, both the Parish Council and SSDC Planning were pointing out that if the club's plans for the Food Store were to be approved, then it was likely that they would need to provide detail on the other associated work they would be carrying out. When the club first unveiled their outline vision, back in March 2011, the original blueprint had been to provide a 3,500 capacity stand to replace the current Copse Road terrace at the ground. However, the club's public exhibition and subsequent plans submitted to SSDC dropped those from the scope, with only a Special Circumstances Report tagged onto the application referring to the club's long term intentions.
Andy Cato, who is the SSDC Team Leader in charge of Area South Planning, and the main contact within the District Council regarding the application, has written to MWA noting that the Special Circumstances Report shows the club "will include the provision of alternative land for public open space and recreation, a future development by the Club of land in Alvington and developments at the football ground itself to, inter alia, increase community use of the stadium." However, Mr Cato points out that SSDC would require formal information to be provided on these works in order to determine "whether they are all achievable in both financial and planning terms or indeed within the time frame suggested."
The understanding of SSDC is now that "the club are now proposing to enter into a planning obligation to provide a formal link between the proposed retail development and the future works of ground improvements" - assuming that is correct, Yeovil Town would then be looking to bring back into scope the 'missing' Away Stand and training pitches, in order to satisfy some of the concerns raised by Brympton Parish Council and SSDC Planning Policy. This makes sense from an SSDC point of view in that they can assess all plans as a single 'group', and reduces the risks of the club being later left in limbo if any of their secondary redevelopment plans are refused.
There is a fly in the ointment at present in that the club have so far only submitted plans for the Food Store, and Mr Cato indicates that the Special Circumstances Report can not realistically be used to represent these plans, given that there are no locations identified for some of the associated works. Without that, Mr Cato has 'serious doubts' stating: "it would be illogical for the Local Authority to enter into a planning obligation to secure significant enabling works without a full and proper assessment of those works ... a planning permission should be in place for the as yet unknown alternative area of open space and recreation before a decision can be made on the current application."
On the plus side, it would appear that SSDC are willing to work with the club to explain why early reaction to the plans has not been favourable, and how to overcome those issues. On the minus side though, the speed of any further movement may depend upon how far advanced the other associated plans are, and whether plots of land have been identified.
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