North Lincolnshire Council are to return Scunthorpe United Football Club’s planning fee of £56,117 because of the failure to determine its planning application for a new stadium within the required time period.
A formal demand for this was made by the Club’s solicitors, to the Council on 3rd April 2019 and within 5 days confirmation was provided by the Council that the planning fee would be refunded. No legal point of defence or rebuttal was taken by the Council to the demand made by the Club’s solicitors.
The Club first submitted its planning application on 2nd August 2018. A decision should have been reached within a 13-week statutory time limit for major planning applications by 2nd November 2018. However, local planning authorities are also required to repay planning fees should a decision be delayed for more than 6 months (26 weeks) without a time extension agreement.
The new Glanford Park stadium planning application is now in its 36th week and more than 5 months overdue. Council Leader Rob Waltham responded to Chairman Peter Swann’s criticism of its continued delay almost one month ago, on 28th March 2019, via a publicly broadcasted radio debate stating that the application was to be approved imminently subject to sorting out financial contributions. The Club can confirm that there has been little positive progress since Cllr Waltham’s public assurances, and in turn this has resulted in the obligation of the Council to refund the significant planning fee.
The new 11,000 capacity stadium is 200 seats less than the original planning consent granted in 1988 and is a straight-forward redevelopment. The application did not receive any objections from the public, local residents, ward councillors or the parish Council. The Environment Agency withdrew an initial objection and since this time the application has sat, ostensibly somewhat stagnant, with the council’s planning department.
Scunthorpe United Chairman Peter Swann, addressing the continued delay, said: ‘Cllr Waltham sought to justify the council’s continued delay of our application as a matter of the ‘process needing to take its course, which he could not interfere in’. The return of our planning fee demonstrates that the Council have not followed due process at all. The Club is in no mood to celebrate the fee announcement, given the circumstances and exasperation which has caused the Club to engage it's solicitors to recover that fee’.
The Chairman added: ‘This delay has deprived the council of a much-needed five figure planning fee at a time when council finances are under pressure and the Club are still unable to build our new stadium. The new stadium is vital to securing the long-term financial viability of Scunthorpe United and the council’s ongoing delay to our application is jeopardising this and is clearly, as a matter of consequence, adversely affecting the Council’s available funds’.
The Club will also continue to press for a public inquiry into the planning issue at SUFC and also the Lincolnshire Lakes project. The Club acted in good faith and fulfilled all its obligations to become the flagship development on the Lincolnshire Lakes. The Club were forced to abandon its stadium plans given the lack of activity on the Lakes project and at great cost.
The Lakes project has the commitment of more than £26 million of tax-payers funding and millions more in Government loans to the private sector. The Club believes that it and North Lincolnshire residents are entitled to an explanation for the stadium debacle and the continued delay of the project.