I’ve had people on the phone to me crying saying their lives are over, it’s a devastating loss to the community but I’m going to continue fighting for justice.
Those are the words of Save Hall Green Stadium campaigner Stephen Rea after a planning committee granted permission for planning officers to bulldoze Hall Green Greyhound Stadium, a venue which has stood tall in the borough for nine decades.
The decision was made just weeks after an initial planning committee voted 9-2 in favour of keeping Hall Green Greyhound Stadium.
Despite the stadium’s status as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), a fresh committee yesterday reversed the decision voting 7-1 in favour of bulldozing the site to make way for 200 new homes.
Though greyhound racing still has a two-year lease at the stadium, Mr Rea said he’s going to continue fighting for justice after he was denied the opportunity to talk at Thursday’s meeting.
Speaking to The Observer, Mr Rea said his side of the argument was unfairly shut down and a total injustice has been served.
He added: “I find quite hard to understand how at the initial committee meeting it was decided 9-2 in favour of keeping Hall Green Greyhound Stadium, yet on Thursday the decision was 7-1 – it’s a total injustice.
“We went along to the meeting but we couldn’t speak or give our side of the argument – the planning officers effectively bullied the committee into making the decision, it’s a total farce.
“The committee which made the decision to bulldoze Hall Green Greyhound Stadium haven’t heard our side of the argument, if you only hear one side of the argument you’re obviously going to have an unrealistic picture of what is going on.
“I’ve had people who have been working at the stadium for more than three decades on the phone to me crying and asking me what can they do next, they’ve told me their lives are over – it’s incredibly upsetting.”
The loss of Hall Green Stadium would have devastating impacts on the lives of hundreds of people currently employed by the stadium or themselves – including members of management, track staff, trainers, kennel hands and bar staff.
Currently, there is only one greyhound racing venue in Birmingham besides Hall Green – Perry Barr, based in the north of the city.
However Mr Rea said he fears for the future of the sport in Birmingham as one greyhound racing facility won’t be able to cope with the demand of trainers, owners and punters.
He added: “The planning applicants didn’t mention to the committee that 300 jobs would be lost, they shut down attendance figures they were supplied with and they haven’t considered the future of greyhound racing in the city.
“I was at Hall Green on Saturday night and the place was packed – well over 1,000 people in attendance.
“Perry Barr was also up to capacity on Saturday night, my point if Hall Green Stadium does close the people who attend Hall Green – bookmakers, trainers, owners and punters – won’t be able to attend Perry Barr as there’s not enough room available for everyone.
“Planning officers also mentioned how if the decision went to appeal it would cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds – the whole situation is a farce and undemocratic.
“Our lawyers are looking into the situation and we will continue to fight for our wonderful sport that has entertained generations of families in Hall Green for near a century.”
A further reasoning as to why Mr Rea wants to see Hall Green Stadium remain standing is the potential damage to the infrastructure of Hall Green should 200 more houses be built – something which was raised by local councillors at the initial committee meeting.
He said: “Medical facilities will be put under strain, as will schools and traffic infrastructure.
“We had to listen to the planning officers pluck false figures out of the air – it’s totally unacceptable that they’ve used their power in this way.
“Had the decision been made in a democratic way then I would’ve accepted it, however we had no chance – we had to sit their in silence.
“My thoughts are with the wonderful greyhounds, owners and trainers at Hall Green who now have no where to go – Towcester is the nearest track that might have space to fit some trainers in, Perry Barr is full, Monmore is full, there’s no where for these well established businesses to go.”
Should Hall Green be lost to the sport, it would leave just 24 licensed greyhound racing venues in the UK – London alone used to boast 33 greyhound racing facilities during the sports glory days, highlighting the gradual decline.
Mr Rea said the decline is down to the campaigners against greyhound racing who are bringing the sport to its knees.
He said: “The campaigners are gradually getting their own way – they’re destroying greyhound racing.
“In a few years time there’s a chance there will be no greyhound racing – and then they’ll move onto horse racing, it’s just a joke.
“We’re going to keep fighting for justice, it’s a massive blow as 90 years of heritage has been wiped out by just 200 houses – despite the fact 3,000 houses are currently being developed just down the road in Edgbaston.”