Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Mr. Perrin’s blog: A Word in Your Ear: Grays Athletic Football Club 2 v Thurrock Borough Council Planning Committee 7

Grays Athletic  Football Club 2 v Thurrock Borough Council Planning Committee 7.

THIS is a case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

There is merit in the arguments of both sides.

Teresa Webster, Chair of Aveley and Kennington Community Forum, was strongly opposed to the  planning application, submitted by Group 1 Automotive Company , to build a “Pre-delivery Inspection {(PDI) Centre for vehicles on current youth pitches at 6the side of the existing GAFC Stadium.  She robustly defended Aveley residents saying …We do not want it.  There is no benefit to Aveley as a community by the Ship Lane ground gift  to GAFC.  Grays Athletic Football Club belongs in Grays not in Aveley.  The loss of this “green-belt” site would be harmful to the residents of Aveley”.

Julian Sutton, Managing Director of JMS Planning submitting the application on behalf of Group 1 Automotive, told the Planning Committee that, Group 1 Automotive had offered to “gift” the football stadium to GAFC as their new home but with a 50/50 split for community football use.  In addition Group 1 Automotive were proposing number of additional benefits for local residents, including an additional £500,000 for football facilities in Belhus Woods Country Park and transport infrastructure and that there would also be a further £50,000 for highways issues on the approach to the town saying “Many of us know that Ship Lane in Aveley has a traffic problem”.

The Planning Committee rejected the application by a majority of 7 against and 2 for.

However, it was not just the pros and cons of the application that concerned me, it was the utter indifference of some Councillors to the long term problems of Grays Athletic Football Club in their quest to find a permanent “home”for the Club.

I was appalled at the supercilious attitude of Cllr Angela Lawrence who said: “This is a “carrot and stick”, trying to entice people to support them because a lot of people like the football club, They (GAFC) sold their own ground . Why didn’t they go out and get another one rather than wait for one to be handed to them?”

Grays Athletic Football Club leased the ground, so when it was sold by the owners, for development, GAFC were made “homeless”.  Had Cllr Lawrence bothered to do a bit of research she would have been aware  that GAFC were not paid a penny from the sale.

I can only conclude that Ms Lawrence made her remarks in ignorance of the facts, or she was being deliberately mischievous, implying that GAFC had squandered the money.  Which ever it was she should be thoroughly ashamed of herself, as also should Cllr Fletcher and Cllr Potter who, I observed, were nodding enthusiastically in agreement.

I am especially disappointed with Cllr Fletcher.

I suspect the posturing of Councillors has more to do with one eye on the Local Government Elections on 6 May 2021.  

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for addressing this. Far too long has passed with Grays Ath having no home to call their own – despite their own hard work, working with the local community and appeals to find somewhere which have somewhat fallen on deaf ears by this council time and time again.

    The statements from Cllr Lawrence were slanderous to say the least, especially in such a public arena with such importance riding on it for not only the club but the application by Group 1 Automotive. The whole application review very quickly moved away from the actual proposal by Group 1 Automotive and any potential site inspections to verify feasibility for HGV access at the proposed site (something the applicant would contribute towards), to a instant ‘red card’ dismissal as soon as someone mentioned the prospect of the existing, unused and dilapidated ground being gifted to a Grays Athletic by disgruntled members.

    Cllr Lawrence and others in the meeting clearly had not done their preparation or research on this application, stating wild inaccuracies about Grays Aths financial position and history – even accusing Grays of pocketing money from when to quote ‘they sold their ground in Bridge Road’ – not even realising Grays were only leasing and landlords made the ground too expensive to rent. I know that the club and members of their support are seeking an apology at the least from Cllr Lawrence at this time.

    Quotes were also made about protecting the green belt location and existing football facilities from the new investor, despite this being located in between the major M25 and A13 roads with the existing pitches having been overgrown, unusable and neglected messes for many years since Thurrock FC disbanded.

    Fully expect Group 1 Automotive to appeal the decision as their case was not fairly heard or reviewed with the appropriate consideration required but instead dismissed without any basis of a clear reason except ‘we dont want this’ – some members not even grasping how the applicants business as a PDI centre would operate and transports its vehicles in. Cllr Lawrence even wildly noting that vehicle transporters are generally unsafe with a nature of frequently tipping over causing deaths! Any rejection based on damages to the greenbelt are excusable to with the Environmental Agency review that was carried out declaring that any damage or increases would be ‘none to minimal’, as mentioned in the meeting.

    In relation to Grays Ath – they do deserve a home, yes – ideally in Grays, but when you have this unused site going to waste and becoming more and more dilapidated with each passing year its hard to see why its not suitable for the council themselves to think about its potential to home Grays Ath, but when we have review team with such a one-track mind-set – then the council have no clear interest in supporting the community’s biggest football club (to note, still even without a stadium).

    It most likely will sadly be another 10+ years before any solution has been found – or when its in the personal interests of these council ‘representatives’.

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