Tuesday, 3 November 2009
The World Cup elephant in the Committee Room
I lived near World Cup hosts Middlesbrough in 1966. North Korea became our home team for a couple of weeks, and they provided plenty of entertainment. But the face of Middlesbrough, much less its global reputation, remained untouched.
How many times will the 2018 world cup will be mentioned tomorrow, when the planning committee meets to consider the application to develop Ashton Vale?
The phrase turns up twenty times in the 'officers report' (pdf), intended to guide councillors toward a recommended decision. That's in spite of their Chief Executive's assurance, in a letter to the Green party and quoted below, that it's not a 'material planning consideration'
The Greens themselves have been pointing out that to get the World Cup, the stadium designers will need to plan to FIFA's 'Green Goal' standards. Solar panels, less 'throwaway' catering, combined bus/entrance match tickets, that sort of thing.
Meanwhile our own 11th hour comments go in (apparently firstname.lastname@example.org take them till noon today):
We believe there is very good reason, taking into account all material planning considerations, to reject all elements of this application, or at the very least to defer a decision to see if the applicants can revise their proposals into something that offers a net 'public good'. As it stands, it's a public bad.
a) The application relies on the principle of 'enabling development' - a material planning consideration. But nowhere is there any attempt to define or quantify the 'public benefits' to set against the acknowledged disbenefits of much of the proposal. Therefore, an informed judgement is impossible.
b) The applicants are inconsistent in their reliance on current planing policy. When it suits, they claim that only the policies laid down in the Local Plan should be enforced; at other times, they claim that the RSS (still in draft and subject to legal challenge) should guide decisions.
c) The applicants' financial case for 'enabling development' has not been proved - in fact the council's own advisors (among others) have taken it to pieces.
d) The proposed waiving of some £millions of Sec 106 payments amounts to a further indirect public subsidy, of dubious legality, to the football club.
e) The prospect of bringing some World Cup matches to Bristol in 2018 has been repeatedly touted as a 'benefit' arising from the new stadium. For instance, the phrase 'World Cup' crops up twenty times in your Officers Report alone. That is not a material planning consideration, and should be discounted. In fact your Chief Executive has written "the Council, its officers and members are fully able to distinguish between the aspirational nature of the (World Cup) bid process and the need for the Local Planning Authority to determine the applications for the new Stadium and the former Ashton Gate site upon material planning considerations alone".
In any case, as Tony Dyer pointed out to the last Cabinet meeting, the proposed stadium should be built and operated to FIFA 'Green Goal' standards to give Bristol a good chance to host the games and live up to its 'Green Capital' aspirations; the proposed stadium just doesn't come near those standards.
f) the failure of the applicants to include affordable housing in their proposals - in defiance of planning policy and of real need. The result is an elitist proposal for housing, while exporting the task of actually meeting real housing need to other areas that are already under pressure. This is a major disbenefit.
g) loss of Green Belt land. Utterly unjustified and undesirable, and without any basis in planning policy.
h) Alternative options. One of the best (and most efficient use of scarce land) is a dual use stadium shared by Bristol City FC and another club (either Rovers or the rugby club). The failure of the clubs concerned to take up this option is their own responsibility - not a burden to be borne by the city.
i) Peak Oil. The city, as part of the Bristol Partnership, has just commissioned and welcomed the report 'Building a positive future for Bristol after Peak Oil'. This will mean absolutely nothing if the city fails to take its values and recommendations into planning and 'future-proofing' new developments such as this.