A number of residents have contacted me about the new Forest Green Rovers (FGR) football stadium and I note that the application was approved by councillors at another planning committee last week. I understand 6 councillors voted in favour, 4 against and 2 councillors were not in attendance.
As mentioned at the planning committee meeting, it is worth noting that there has been a request for the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ‘call in’ the application. The request was made by a significant number of local organisations and people: Nailsworth Town Council, Eastington Parish council, Arlingham Parish Council, Whitminster Parish Council, Frampton Parish Council and Eastington councillors.
This means the application can be considered by the Secretary of State so the matter is not finalised. Stroud District Council cannot grant planning permission until the relevant time period has concluded. The Secretary of State also has the option to extend the period if he requires more time.
If it is decided to call in the application, the matter will be considered at a public inquiry led by a planning inspector who will make recommendations. The Secretary of State will then decide.
It is important that the people seeking a call in should not be criticised, nor called names like nimbys (I cannot stand this term) or alleged to not care about the success of our brilliant local football team.
You will recall that the stadium applicants were clear that if they lost the application, they would ‘appeal’ the decision, i.e. take it to the next stage to try there. A ‘call in’ is simply a step available in planning cases to allow a matter to be taken to another stage for consideration. It is also a step often taken for large scale planning proposals where there is conflict.
I understand that emotions run high about this, but I was saddened by some of the comments about planning committee councillors and local people earlier in the year when the first application was rejected. There is no question that the proposal is controversial and that it worries as many people as it delights.
With the above in mind and due to the fact that the application is outside of the Local Plan and relevant Neighbourhood Development plan (adopted strategic planning authorities that I am constantly asking people to engage with to create and respect when in place) I am supporting the request for a ‘call in’.
I also believe an independent assessment of the application is the best way to proceed.
While this may take more time, a project of this scale that will last a lifetime, together with concerns being raised in both Nailsworth, Eastington and other communities, the applicants desire to have a successful new stadium and the great pride that I and others feel about FGR football team - I believe it is worth the effort and wait to receive an answer from the highest level. In those circumstances, all communities will hopefully be able to find a way to live peacefully with the result whatever happens.
Whether the matter should be ‘called in’ and if so, what the final decision should be rests with the Secretary of State as I have explained.
Please feel free to write to me about this. As mentioned above, I have already received a number of emails, of which I will reply to over the Christmas break.
My email is Siobhan.firstname.lastname@example.org
With kind regards