(Thursday 28th March 2002)
Adams Park - a view from the Tunnel Wanderers' officials were left stunned after Wycombe District Council voted against the lawfulness of playing Rugby at Adams Park in a lengthy Development Control Committee meeting on Wednesday evening. The eventual vote went to the wire with Chairman Mrs Lay being obliged to support the view of the Council's legal experts who had advised that the original planning conditions did not include the playing of rugby.
The decision leaves Wasps without an immediate home for next season and Wanderers in the dilemma of whether to appeal against the decision through their own legal advisors or to present a planning application to play rugby at Adams Park as per other non football events at Adams Park such as Car Boot Sales, Lacrosse and Concerts. However, with time running out fast it's highly unlikley that anything could be sorted out in time for Wasps to commit to next season.
The whole decision rested on the interpretation of the original planning conditions set out in 1990 which had used the term 'football' and made no mention of rugby. The Club's own legal agent had attempted to argue that the proposed use of the site for the playing and watching of rugby football would not amount to a material change of use constituting development requiring planning permission.
However, it was the Counsel's view that this approach was 'incorrect'. Their view was that the wording in the original planning permission (W/88/6582) was clear and unambiguous and the term 'football' as used is limited to 'association football'. It was therefore recommended to the Committee to refuse the 'certificate of lawfulness'. The Counsel also stated "This matter is not dealt with in the same way as a planning application and the planning merits of the proposed development are not relevant"
The Committee debated for almost an hour on the matter but although many there wanted to support the Club on their idea to extend the use of Adams Park, it was felt that to go against legal advice would be going down a dangerous path. One Councillor commented "This is a logical extension of the leisure facilities of this town but is this within the spirit of the original application?" Other Councillors also supported the move but stated "we must stick to legal issues". However, some Councillors chose for an extended and ultimately pedantic discussion on the dictionary definition of 'football'. It was a debate that at some points turned to farce and had Chairman Lay slowing becoming more frustrated with the awkward position the Committee had been put into. She commented "We are bending over backwards to split hairs and I'm getting very angry"
After nearly one hour of deliberation and further legal advive the Committee eventually voted on the matter with a 5-5 result from the floor. It was then left for the Chairman to back up the Council's legal advisors and probably open up yet another chapter of legal wrangling in the future.
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