Monday, 06 April 2009 00:00

Trust calls for Comprehensive Development

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Following legal advice the board of the Wrexham Supporters Trust has written to the planning department at Wrexham Council, and the individual planning committee members, calling on them to reject the current application and request a comprehensive plan which links the development of the student accommodation to the provision of a new stand.

We have not taken this decision lightly.

We have at all times supported a development which would be in the best interests of the football club. In the view of the Societies board this application falls well short of an acceptable scheme.

Since the current application was lodged with the authority in December the Society has raised several concerns regarding its detail.
These have related to certain parking issues, the size of the footprint for the new Kop stand and the fact that the design seemingly creates ransom strips around the stadium which may restrict its future growth.

We have also raised concerns regarding the holding company structure that the club is entering. The recent example of Southampton is evidence that such concerns are justified.

However, we have always been reassured by the developers promises that the Application would have a legally binding Section 106 agreement in place to protect the interests of both the local community and the football club.

Indeed club director Paul Retout stated as much in an interview with the Daily Post.
But the purpose of the Section 106 is precisely to prevent the possibility of anyone coming in to asset strip the club. And I can assure the Trust that everything is going to be transparently clear when the detailed planning application goes in.

Two weeks ago we discovered that this would not be the case and that a Unilateral Undertaking would be offered up by the developers in support of their application. Although this is a form of Section 106 it falls short of the protection offered by an agreement. A unilateral undertaking is a planning obligation that is proposed by the developer in support of their application and is drafted by their solicitors.

In response to this significant change the club issued a statement which contained the following reassurances.

We are currently working with the legal team at Wrexham Borough Council in finalising a comprehensive enforceable legal agreement that includes:

* A new stand at the 'Kop end' of the ground

* Repayment of all the Club's debts

* The provision of substantial working capital to the Club

* The protection of the long-term future of the Club and the Racecourse Ground

We understand that this legal agreement is outside and more comprehensive and stringent than would be required for most planning applications.

The day after this statement was issued the WST inadvertently acquired a copy of the Unilateral Undertaking. On first inspection it appeared to contain none of the commitments listed above.

The Board agreed to take legal advice on the matter .

The advice was received and adopted by the board of the Society last week and key parties were sent copies on Friday last.

The advice is very clear - the Unilateral Undertaking as it relates to the provision of a new Kop is worthless.
The Undertakings are not planning obligations and as such are not transferable. The stadiums future rests on verbal assurances given by the developer.

Two years ago the original application for this site had a strict and binding Section 106 agreement attached it. It recognised the importance of the Stadium to the town and sought to protect its future through a strict and binding agreement.

Where is that agreement today?

The Racecourse Ground is the oldest International Stadium in the world and that in itself is a fact that we should be proud of. This proposed Unilateral Undertaking does nothing to protect that status. We have seen across Wales in recent years the construction of new Stadia in Swansea and Llanelli. Further grounds are being built in Cardiff and Newport.

Wrexham will be pushed to the back of the queue.

Although the Society supports a development in principle, in this instance we are urging the planning committee to consider our barristers advice and reject this application and request a full comprehensive plan which links the development of the student accommodation to the provision of a new stand .
A Board representative will attend tonight's meeting and speak in favour of the aforementioned full comprehensive plan. The current proposal falls well short of what supporters of the club have been promised and indeed, have a right to expect.

The Proposed Redevelopment Advice Document can be viewed Here

Unilateral Undertaking Draft 3 Document can be viewed Here