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Stadium: 'Robust' case not made, committee rules
A 'ROBUST' case for moving forward with the community stadium project has not been made, a scrutiny committee has agreed.
The decision to move ahead with Wycombe Air Park in Booker, Great Marlow, as the best site for a new ground and sports village was 'called in' by Wycombe District Council's Improvement and Review Commission.
And there were claims at the commission's meeting last night that the process has lacked “transparency”.
WDC Vice-Chairman Cllr Ian McEnnis proposed the 'call in' went ahead. He said there had not been a "robust case to proceed with the project in its current form".
Chairman Cllr Alex Collingwood said: “They (cabinet) have to come back on with a clear course of action if they going to continue with that particular route, they have to come back and consider how they would do it.”
The commission's decision will be referred back to Cabinet in March.
The Green Belt again featured centrally in the debate.
Cllr Audrey Jones said: “I think the whole issue of overriding policy on green belt and considering going forward with a planning application before we have resolved this is totally wrong.”
She questioned the public consultation results, saying: "everybody I meet is against it”, adding: “It should only be consultation with the people who live here.”
Cllr Malcolm Blanksby, Independent, said the Green Belt issue could leave the project “dead in the water”.
He said: “The thing that concerns me most is the lack of transparency.
"The consultation process was flawed. I'm still encountering people now in my ward who still don't know of this project and they're not unintelligent people."
But Leader Cllr Lesley Clarke, Conservative, responded: “I take exception to his word 'flawed' - our officers worked hard and those words were unjust.”
Cllr Paul Rogerson, Conservative, said the process needed to be clearer.
“I'm unhappy about how we are going about it," he said.
Cllr Trevor Snaith, Liberal Democrat, said if the project was put forward at a business launch he would walk away from it.
Cllr Alan Hill, Tory, questioned the commitment of Wasps, describing the club as "nomads", while Cllr Dominic Barnes said any planning application would fail on grounds of infrastructure.
But not all committee members agreed with the call in.
Cllr James Malliff, Conservative, said it seemed Cabinet had already agreed with its recommendations, adding: “I don't know what we're really expecting Cabinet to do here.” Cllr Simon Bazley, Conservative, also questioned this.
Cllr Ron Gaffney, Conservative, compared the process to the Grand National with many fences to overcome but added: “We're not even in the parade yet.”
Cllr Clarke said: "Cabinet had only decided on the site, that's the only thing we have looked at in the first instance.
"We have said all along there's lots more things to be considered.”
Cllr Clarke said: “We are so far away from a planning application it could be two or three years down the line, we have only been looking at the decision made for the consultation.
"We weren't allowed to talk about anything else as we were told it would skew the outcome.”
Deputy Leader Cllr Tony Green, Conservative, said: “I believe we are being transparent".
“A number of members are jumping ahead.
"We realise we have still got a long way to go before we are talking about planning applications and building stadiums, it's a process with many stages,” he said.
He added: “We know there will be huge community benefits, we need to be able to confirm these.”
The issue of re-examining a split-site option was also raised.
But Cllr Green said: “You end up having effect on to greenbelt sites rather than just one" while Cllr Clarke said it would leave less money to build the stadium.