Scunthorpe United Football Club can confirm that it has finally received the much-delayed planning consent for 160 apartments at the Sands Venue Stadium.
The decision notice was received almost 83 weeks from its submission on August 2nd, 2018. This has impacted significantly on the club’s finances and further action is being progressed in response to this unacceptable delay.
Chairman Peter Swann stated: "The Sands Venue Stadium forms the main gateway into the town. Being located next to the motorway and within Scunthorpe’s primary shopping and leisure area, it is a prime location for future health and housing accommodation. The development of the apartments will provide much needed new starter homes for local people and much needed revenue for the club."
The Chairman added: "New apartments will also provide a significant contribution to the council’s current shortfall in housing provision. The council no longer have a required five-year housing land supply and it is not surprising when Cllr Waltham’s planning department take more than, in the case of the club, five-times longer than the statutory period for determining major planning applications. This delay has had a major adverse financial impact upon the club."
This simple application took three months longer to determine than Hinckley C Nuclear Power Station - an £18-billion project that will provide seven per cent of the UK’s total electricity by 2025, create 900 construction jobs and up to 26,000 apprenticeships and full-time jobs. The council simply have no defence for such an unacceptable delay.
Cllr Waltham's planning department has taken more than one year and eight months to determine a straight-forward outline application for 160 apartments at SUFC's stadium. This is 68 weeks longer (one year and four months) than the government's maximum statutory time limit of 13 weeks.
For Cllr Waltham to pass this delay off in his recent press statement as a consequence of the planning system being 'process led' and because of 'rules and regulations' is preposterous. The planning 'rules' which Cllr Waltham seeks to blame provide a 'guarantee' that all applications, regardless of their complexity, must be determined within 26 weeks.
The council’s failure to comply with this requirement led it to being forced to repay the £56,117 planning fee for the stadium application and the £2,310 planning fee for the apartments back to the club. The council returned both fees without protest following interventions by the club’s lawyers. No justification for the delays were provided by the council and no protest or resistance to the fee return was made. It is both astonishing and a sad indictment of the council that having returned the fees in June 2019, that it still took a further eight months to determine this application.
The suggestion that this planning application was complex is ludicrous. The application was for 'outline' consent only with 'all matters reserved'. It sought to establish the principle of the apartment development at the stadium site only, with all matters of granular (and potentially complex) detail to be determined by subsequent applications. Cllr Waltham’s suggestion that the delays were due to dithering on the club’s part is absolute nonsense.
The apartments application was simple, straightforward and non-controversial. Not a single objection was received from residents, the public, the Parish Council or North Lincolnshire councillors. An initial objection from the Environment Agency was withdrawn, after the club dealt with the same to the satisfaction of and there were no other objections from statutory agencies.
The financial climate for lower level league football clubs is extremely challenging and the council’s delays have cost the club substantial amounts, which may equate to millions. Cllr Waltham’s statement that the ‘council will always support Scunthorpe United’ simply does not stand up to scrutiny, and is not made out by real life events, His assertion that the council ‘recognise the club’s unique position in the community’ is entirely undermined by the additional costs which the club has been encumbered with, as a result of the Council’s delay.
The club are pursuing this matter further with Government Ministers, the Local Government Ombudsman and via legal action.