A CAMPAIGNER fighting to save Hall Green Stadium has slammed the comments of the opposing planning officer believing he’s not acting in the interests of local people.
Stephen Rea, a former general manager at Hall Green Stadium for 15 years, previously told The Observer it would be a ‘criminal offence’ if the stadium was to close and has since gained hundreds of signatures for his online petition to ‘Save Hall Green Stadium’.
Mr Rea will be present at a public meeting on Thursday morning at Birmingham Council offices in Victoria Square where a decision could be made regarding the future of greyhound racing at the venue.
Mr Rea’s comments come after planning officer Andrew Conroy stated the loss of Hall Green Stadium and existing employment would be outweighed by the positive aspects of the proposed development.
The Stadium was purchased for £3 million in 2014 by Euro Property Investments, who plan to develop up to 210 dwellings and a children’s play area.
Hopes to save Hall Green Stadium were boosted last week when the stadium was made an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
By becoming an ACV, it makes building on the site much more complex – meaning the likelihood of losing the stadium at the end of the current lease to host greyhound racing in 12 months time would decrease.
Mr Rea told The Observer that the planning application submitted hits several flaws in relation to the Council’s requirements.
He said: “The Council recommend that a third of all houses built for a planning application of the size requested should be affordable – currently only 15 per cent of planned houses to be built are affordable.
“The Council also recommends that 9,600 square metres of open space should be provided – the application submitted features just 3,188 square metres, a third of the recommended space.”
Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff has also been involved in talks and stated in a letter to the Council that Hall Green Stadium is just as vital to Birmingham as other major sporting facilities including Edgbaston cricket ground, St Andrew’s and Villa Park.
Currently, it is not known whether Thursday’s meeting will provide a definite outcome regarding the future of Hall Green Stadium, however Mr Rea said he will continue to persuade people to back the campaign.
He added: “It could be that on Thursday a decision is made there and then.
“My hope is that those involved will go into a room, have a chat and a reject the application – until then all we can do is try and persuade people to back our campaign.
“On the same day that the stadium received its ACV status, Mr Conroy issued a report and pretty much dismissed the ACV status – almost as if it wasn’t important.
“There’s so many flaws in the planning application – Mr Conroy hasn’t given the stadium enough consideration, if the Council are saying Hall Green Stadium is an ACV I don’t see how he can dismiss it.
“Mr Conroy also dismisses the loss of 300 jobs as if it doesn’t matter – we’re talking about affecting the lives of people in the community here.
“The short term construction jobs created should the stadium be knocked down would only be temporary – unlike the permanent jobs the stadium is currently home to.
“Mr Conroy quotes comments from people in support of the application, one of those supporters is from Wigan, another from Berwick-Upon-Tweed – these aren’t local people supporting the planning application, they live hundreds of miles away.”
The Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) has a 15-year lease on the stadium which will keep Greyhound Racing at the Hall Green venue until 2028.
However a clause when Euro Property Investment purchased the site in 2014, agreed that if they received planning permission within the first five years of purchase, they can bulldoze the stadium to make way for housing.
Mr Rea said: “I’ve been going to Hall Green Stadium with my family ever since I can remember.
“The stadium still attracts 200,000 people each year and Mr Conroy has made consideration to this in his report.
“Loads of Councillors have signed our petition to save the stadium – there are plenty of other brownfield sites in the local area which can be used.
“Most people living in the local area want the stadium saved.
“I’ve talked to plenty of people and the feedback that I’ve received is that Hall Green Stadium provides a good night out.
“Extra houses in the area would put tremendous stress on the local infrastructure – doctors, schools and hospitals would all be affected.
“You have to remember that Hall Green Stadium is not only home to greyhound racing, but also home to a conference centre, hotel and business meeting rooms.
“More than 40 weddings a year are hosted on site, plenty of people visiting the area stay in the hotel – to lose Hall Green would be a major loss to Solihull.”