A Full Report on the Southend Utd Application

We knew it was going to be a pretty unusual evening when we heard that fans were hiring coaches to bring them from Southend to the match , er, committee meeting. Some fans who arrived early were able to get seats in the council chamber, but hundreds had to stand out in the cold in the Market Car Park, where they could listen to the debate via loadspeakers.

There was a discreet police presence in case of trouble, but actually the fans were pretty well behaved. We could sometimes hear the crowd booing or cheering as the meeting went on, but that was almost expected… A notable absentee from the meeting was the leader of the council, Terry Cutmore.

The proceedings began with the case officer, Lee Palmer, outlining the details of the application. They weren’t recommending refusal because of the sports pitches, but mainly because of the overflow car park for 454 vehicles, it was against green belt policy. More information was also needed on the proposed drainage scheme to prevent flooding. There wasn’t enough ‘interconnectivity’ between the sports pitches and the main stadium. County Highways were also objecting.

We then had three speakers – one from Sutton Parish Council, , one from the applicant, and one on behalf of local residents.

The first of these was Sutton Parish Councillor Norman Andrews. He emphasised that he was there to represent all the residents. He gave numerous reasons for refusing the application , in particular light pollution (from the training pitch floodlights) , intrusion into the Green Belt, and the visual impact. There were plenty of other pitches already existing that could be used for training. The traffic density would be too high, and it would affect visitors to the garden of remembrance at Sutton Road Crematorium.

The speaker on behalf of the club was none other than the chairman, Ron Martin.. He began by thanking the council for being able to speak, and that he would have liked to have been able to have done so at Southend Borough Council’s meeting. He emphasised that that they couldn’t build the stadium scheme that the Borough had passed without this part of the scheme being passed too. He said that this was the only possible location for a new stadium and that he believed that any harm from the proposal was minimal.

The next speaker was someone who lived at Templegate Cottages right next to the site. He concentrated on the technical flaws in the scheme, didn’t try to get emotional and was probably the best speaker against the application all night. He pointed out that the training pitches could eventually be turned into further car parks, that Sutton Road is a dangerous unclassified road (with another fatality this week) and he was also concerned about flooding of nearby houses. Whilst the crowd outside cheered Ron Martin, we could hear them booing him, but it didn’t affect him.

Then it was time for councillors to debate the issue. We expected the first councillor to be the member for Barling and Sutton, Richard Amner, but he asked to speak at the end instead. This was surprising because if he had moved refusal, he would have had the chance to sum up at the end anyway. If he had spoken first of all, he could have followed on from what the resident had said, but instead the momentum was passed to those in favour of the scheme.

The next speaker was Hawkwell Councillor Heather Glynn, and she spoke very strongly in support of the scheme. She moved a motion that it be passed , subject to 5 conditions. Two of these conditions were that the floodlights could only be used three nights per week (the club wants to use them six nights) and that the car park could only be used on match days. She said the pitches and the car park would act as a buffer between the built-up area and the open Green belt to the north.

This motion was seconded by Cllr Keith Hudson from Hockley.

Rochford Councillor James Cottis then spoke in support, saying that he expected that the facilities would be offered to local schools.

Ron Oatham then asked if the Southend Borough application had any restriction on non-football events at the stadium (he meant things like rock concerts).

Chris Black then spoke in support of the application, saying that these were exceptional circumstances, and the club was an important part of many people’s lives.

Hawkwell Councillor Derek Stainsby then spoke briefly in support.

Rochford Councillor Keith Gordon was the next speaker, and was the first councillor who spoke against the scheme. He said that he was concerned about several issues, including flooding, and couldn’t support it.

Our Lib Dem colleague Chris Lumley said that wasn’t going to indicate how he would vote, but asked a very pointed question – racecourses like Cheltenham and Goodwood have car parks don’t they? Are they in the Green Belt?

Rayleigh Councillor Tony Humphries spoke in support.

Hockley Councillor Jeremy Thomass said his mind had been changed by Mrs Glynn. He would support approval.

Hullbridge Councillor Lesley Butcher then spoke in support, saying it was an exceptional case.

Cllr Trevor Goodwin from Great Wakering supported it, saying it would improve employment opportunities.

Hawkwell Councillor Phil Capon said that he had come to the meeting undecided, but would now support the scheme.

Rayleigh Councillor Mavis Webster then spoke very firmly and a little angrily against the scheme. She said we should protect our Green Belt, and that this site should have a proper historical/ archaeological investigation. We could hear the distant crowd outside chanting “What a load of rubbish”.

Her husband Peter Webster also spoke against the scheme.

Another Rayleigh councillor, Joan Mockford, then spoke in favour of the proposal.

Rochford councillor Sue Harper said that this was an exceptional case, she would support it.

Great Wakering Councillor Colin Seagers the spoke against the scheme, saying he doubted the traffic figures.

The Chairman of the Committee Cllr Simon Smith then spoke. He said that there would be chaos on the roads before a match and afterwards , and he was concerned about precedent, but on balance he was still in favour. This was significant because it’s not routine for the chairman to speak against the officers recommendation.

Ward member Richard Amner finally entered the debate. He said that the District Council should look after all parts of the district , that two homes would be completely cut off by the scheme, and the local infrastructure wasn’t there to support it.

Then came the vote – 20 in favour and 8 against. The scheme was passed, subject to Cllr Heather Glynn’s conditions, and the fans – and Southend United players – went home happy.

As one of the fans said to us on the way out, it was a good debate, and the council officers handled things very well.

PS If anyone has any photos of the evening that they’d like us to publish here, please let us know.

About the author, admin

  • The news about the new Southend United Stadium is, on the whole, a boost for the area. Something not as likely to make the front pages is Rayleigh Boys Youth Football Team’s FA Charter Standard Award, details of which can be found on their website:
    Perhaps congratulations, plus a vote of thanks for the past 30 years commitment to the community, will be shortly forthcoming from the Town Council. One lives in hope.

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