Thursday 19 April 2007

Falmer Stadium

A few people have asked about Falmer Stadium.

I'm going to assume that I'll never get a vote on this issue, so the problem of fettered discretion doesn't arise for me. So, I'll speak frankly.

Before I moved to Lewes, I signed the petition in favour of the Falmer Stadium. I'm an Arsenal fan, and we've moved into a great new stadium this year. Brighton got sold down the river over their old stadium. They've done well for themselves since, despite having to endure ground sharing, and a badly undersized stadium. They really do deserve a good stadium.

I never really believed that the proposed site was a particularly beautiful one. I think the proposed National Park would protect the surrounding area from further development. Public transport is reasonably good at Falmer. OK, it would take a long time to empty the stadium using just the public transport available, but football fans are willing to walk a couple of miles to and from a match.

Since moving to Lewes, I've discovered that the main reason for opposition to the development is actually to prevent Falmer village being subsumed into the Brighton conurbation. That's a reasonable objective, and one that I sympathise with. So, now I'm in two minds about the stadium, but still probably in favour on balance. Perhaps I could be persuaded that there's a better site - I'd certainly like to see it more central.

The whole saga of the stadium proposal has dragged on and on. But, I don't think anyone has done the Albion any favours with this.

First, the club itself should not have put in a proposal that crossed the boundary into Lewes District. The application was mired from that point. It was always going to be much more difficult for them to get the application accepted when it fell into two jurisdictions. If they'd put the coach park south of village way, instead of in Lewes District, perhaps the application would have been acceptable.

Second, John Prescott did the Albion no favours by (a) sitting on the application for so long, and then (b) failing to realise that the development fell partly outside the boundaries of Brighton and Hove. That failure ultimately allowed Lewes District Council to apply to court to overturn the decision.

LDC's application was opposed by some as a "Waste of money". You still see posters in Lewes saying "LDC - End the challenge". Well, the challenge was won, without spending any money on court fees. Why? Because the government realised that the decision was flawed, and agreed to reconsider.

Of course, the Lib-Dems in Lewes didn't do the Albion any favours by opposing the stadium development. But, you should note that the LDC cabinet has Tory and Lib-Dem members, and they were unanimous in opposing the development. They were also supported by Falmer parish council, and many other organisations. Lib-Dems in Brighton, by the way, supported the development.

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