Yeovil Town's plans to build a Food Store on land situated to the north of the Huish Park stadium have received further negative feedback from interested parties. Government body Sport England, which is the brand name of the English Sports Council, sitting under the Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, had already provided feedback on the application in March 2012 but two years later have stated that their concerns have not been resolved by the club. Their views follow last week's submissions by Somerset County Council's Highways Department and SSDC's Area South Development team.
The latest feedback from Sport England has been provided after they reviewed last month's publishing of the club's three year strategic plan, combined with an offer to provide £1 million to South Somerset District Council to compensate for the loss of community land and to "secure and develop a site capable of accommodating two sports pitches together with changing and associated facilities."
Sport England indicate that they have in turn consulted with the Football Association, who they work in partnership with to preserve football pitches throughout the country. Their response states that because the offer does not include firm provision for a replacement site for those pitches, they cannot support it, as there is no guarantee that the sum of money offered will be sufficient to support that development:
"This can only be accepted once there is a firm proposal on the table of where to site the relocated pitches. Only when this site has been identified and the value of the land has been established to purchase along with the cost to bring the site into use confirmed, will we be in a position to understand if the £1m is adequate mitigation. The land identified will need to be large enough to develop a plateaux for the pitches, provide access, a car park and pavilion with changing rooms and social facilities to ensure sustainability."
Sport England indicate that once such a site is provided to act as the means to house the replacement pitches, they would expect the following to be detailed within that planning application:
a) An independent pitch consultants (Agronomist) report on the quality of the pitches to be installed (including) Size of the 2 pitches (Plateaux) – do they conform to the FA recommended size of 100m x 64m (Excl run-offs)? Are they appropriate to the level of football planned for the site?
b) Technical spec of the changing rooms/pavilion, are they compliant – will this include a social room for income generation purposes? Location of the pavilion, close to car parking and emergency access?
c) Is there appropriate access to the site?
d) Maintenance schedule and possible commuted sum to support this maintenance
e) Ownership, operation and management of the facilities
f) Security of site to prevent damage or unauthorised use
Without this being provided as part of the application, Sport England express doubt that the replacement site will be provided, citing the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as well as their own policies concerning development on playing fields. They summarise:
"There is no replacement site in a suitable location; there are no details / specifications of what will be provided at the replacement site and no guarantee that the replacement site will be provided at all, let alone prior to the commencement of development of the retail unit. In light of the above, Sport England maintains an objection to the proposal because it is not considered to accord with any of the exceptions in Sport England’s playing fields policy and Government policy."
Sport England indicate that if SSDC decide to go against their views and seek to approve the planning application, then in line with their March 2012 feedback on the application, they would expect it to be referred to National Government, with the National Planning Casework Unit (a division of the Department for Communities and Local Government) taking over the application process:
"Should your Council be minded to grant planning permission for the development then in accordance with The Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009, and the DCLG letter of 10 March 2011, the application should be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit."
The alternative path is for the planning application to be amended to contain details of the replacement pitches, which would then allow Sport England to reassess their views, using the above criteria.
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