Coventry Stadium planning inquiry: Proceedings paused until November over potential NHS funding
The planning inquiry to settle the future of Coventry Stadium has been adjourned until November to settle whether the NHS should receive funding if houses are built there.
The now-derelict home of the Coventry Bees speedway team and stock car racing is the subject of plans from site owners Brandon Estates to replace it with 124 homes, a 3G football pitch and pavilion.
Planning permission was unanimously refused by Rugby Borough Council’s planning committee in November 2022 and the appeal is being heard by national inspector Helen Hockenhull.
Inquiries are the most formal procedure by which planning appeals are decided with legal representatives cross-examining parties and expert witnesses to investigate evidence.
The final decision is considered and published in writing, sometimes weeks after the end of the inquiry, and it is a process that places all planning matters in the hands of the inspector.
A part of the process is ensuring that all of the relevant details and conditions are worked out in the event of the appeal being successful. If it is not, they become irrelevant.
A major element is the section 106 agreement which lays out how much money the developer must contribute to various services locally, including infrastructure, highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.
University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust has requested £133,754 to cater for the increased number of residents but Rugby Borough Council argue the request does not comply with planning policies.
Irrespective of the willingness of the developer to pay, the council’s legal representative Hugh Richards KC told the inquiry that the knock-on effect of waving through the request could paint the authority into a corner.
“It may be thought that the sum asked for in this case is neither here nor there,” he said.
“It is not affecting, for example, the viability of the scheme such that other matters which the local authority would want to receive by way of developer contributions have to be sacrificed, but such a case may arise in the future.
“Therefore, the council has an interest in not setting, in effect, what would be a bad precedent.”
On the back of a submission from the NHS trust’s legal representative, which argued that the funding request is “necessary” and “directly related to the development”, Ms Hockenhull felt the matter should be scrutinised in the same way as other bones of contention.
“There is a principle issue for the council here irrespective of that value,” she said.
“My view is that it is not appropriate to be dealt with in a round-table discussion. Maybe I am erring on the side of caution a little bit but we are wrestling here with being efficient and securing a decision for the appellant in a reasonable period of time and (wanting to) reduce the risk of challenge as well.
“My view is that the most appropriate option is to not address that through a round table and to have that particular element subjected to witness statements and cross examination.
“Unfortunately that will mean a delay. I apologise for that but I think under the circumstances that is probably the most appropriate way forward.
“It would be helpful if we could reduce that delay as much as possible and arrange suitable dates where everyone is able to reconvene.”
It resulted in the inquiry being adjourned until November 8, 2023, when it is due to reconvene for two days at Rugby Borough Council’s headquarters to discuss all matters related to section 106 funding. The date itself is subject to change.
Those two days conclude with closing submissions by the legal representatives of Brandon Estates, the council and Save Coventry Speedway and Stox – the final arguments put forward prior to the inspector’s decision – which cannot be made until the unresolved issues have been thrashed out.
The inspector will only hear new evidence in relation to the section 106 funding, not on matters that have already been addressed.