|MORE SECRET STADIUM TALKS
(Friday 5th February 2010)
Council chiefs will have more behind closed doors discussions on Monday 8th February 2010 as they look at property and planning issues relating to the proposals to build a 'Community Stadium' for the use of the Wycombe and London Wasps. The Cabinet meeting will exclude public and press from the relevant part of the agenda as it contains what is deemed 'a significant amount of commercially sensitive information'. However, Councillors at the meeting on 8th Feb are expected put questions to the Cabinet and the public will be able to put questions to the Council at a meeting later in the month.
Since the last update on the proposals by COTN on 21st January 2010, the groundswell of debate regarding the proposals has gathered more pace. An article in the Bucks Free Press published on 29th January 2010 said the proposal that other facilities including cricket, hockey and indoor sports were planned for the site that would be leased to a stadium company that the Council would have a ‘degree of ownership’. Bucks New University are also likely to be partners in the project. Councillor Tony Green, deputy leader of the council, was quoted as saying, "It is an effort to keep the club (London Wasps) in the town and give the town and district a facility it hasn’t got."
Wanderers and Wasps owner Steve Hayes has so far stayed away from the recent debate but was quoted in an article in the Evening Standard on 26th November 2009, saying, "The local council want to see Wycombe and Wasps moving forward and remaining in this area and the site of nearly 100 acres will have 'enabling development' that will help create a strong community element. I believe that if we get things sorted, then in two years Wasps will break even."
Funding for the project will be a controversial debate but if the project gets the go ahead then it would be financed through cross financing and 'enabling development'. A similar method was used for the construction of the MK Dons' stadium in Milton Keynes. Charles Brocklehurst, Head of Property Services at WDC, has attempted to explain the process of an 'enabling development' that would help fund the project. In a statement he said, "This would probably be done by selling low value land already owned by the Council. Before sale, however, the land could be reallocated to boost its market value. For example, if certain conditions were met, a derelict patch of land could be sold as an area suitable for development". However, any money raised this way could only be used to invest in the stadium project because local government rules prevent it being used for the day to day running of the Council or other facilities.
The meeting on 8th February look to approve the initial funding for the project, including £220,000 for a 'Commercial Feasibility' and another £500,000 allocated for implementation in the 'Core Strategy Development Plan' for the local area. The plan, that was adopted in July 2008, previously removed Adams Park from Green Belt, thus potentially increasing its market value.
Concerned Councillors are expected to quiz the Cabinet on 8th February with regards to funding levels and the feasbility of situating a stadium of the suggested size in the Wycombe district. However, all pointers suggest that Council leaders, seemingly desperate to keep London Wasps in High Wycombe, will give approval for the wheels to be set in motion and for Heads of Terms to be signed up by the stadium company owned by Steve Hayes and fellow Wasps Director Mike Brooks.
This would then kick off a consultation process by WDC similar to that recently carried out for their 'Imagine the Future' strategies. Before then, Councillors and members of the public will have a chance to put questions to the cabinet via a question and answer session at a Full Council Meeting on Thursday 25th February. Questions must be received by the Council by 12 noon on Friday 19th February 2010.
See the WDC website for more details of Q&A sessions and meeting dates
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