THE FUTURE of Coventry Speedway remains in doubt following a crisis meeting at Warwick University last night (May 26).
The future of the club – and the site – is in the balance as the current lease for speedway and stock car racing ends following the current season, meaning a new lease would have to be agreed with stadium owners Brandon Estates Ltd.
However, despite no planning application being currently submitted, it is feared by many supporters that Brandon Estates Ltd will ‘land bank’ the site – leaving the stadium to remain standing in a derelict state.
A decision regarding the future of Coventry Stadium is likely to be made at the end of June to allow realistic time for both speedway and stock car promoters to plan for next year’s racing – should any take place.
Around 130 outraged Coventry Bees and Coventry Stock Car fans turned out at Scarman House Lecture Theatre where Rugby Borough Council Leader Michael Stokes, Bees promoter Mick Horton, campaigner Pete Lawrence and Dave Carter of Coventry Stock Cars made up the panel.
The meeting was held just hours after an application made to make the Brandon site an Asset of Community Value (ACV) was rejected by Rugby Borough Council – though this will be reviewed in full today (May 27).
Attendees were told the application was rejected as the stadium does not directly serve the community and only hosts sporting events.
Should the stadium become an ACV, it would make building on the site much more complex – meaning the likelihood of losing the stadium at the end of the current season in October would decrease.
During the meeting it was also revealed that 20 sites have been considered for development, though none of those have been deemed appropriate and current discussions are taking place about a site 13 miles from Coventry city centre – though talks are in the early stages.
Regarding the immediate future of Coventry Bees Speedway team, promoter Mick Horton revealed that he would not consider a groundshare with nearby clubs Leicester Lions or Birmingham Brummies while they continue to search for a new home.
He also added that Coventry Speedway wouldn’t consider a 12-month lease at Coventry Stadium and that if a lease was to be agreed it would have to be a long term deal – ideally five years.
Coun Michael Stokes, leader of Rugby Borough Council, told The Coventry Observer after the meeting that no planning application has been submitted for the site yet and said the current location of Coventry Stadium is ‘perfect’.
He added: “At the moment there is no planning application at all for the site.
“We have a local plan process and at the moment there is no identification for that site to have houses built on so right now the council’s involvement is nil.
“If you look at our policy online and see what constitutes a good planning application – something that’s likely to be approved – Brandon does not fit in that because it’s a viable sporting facility and it fits in the greenbelt.
“We can say with some level of accuracy the policy alone wouldn’t get planning permission however we can never speak for what the committee may decide or if they take it to an appeal with an inspector.”
The decision to turn down an application to make the Brandon site an ACL will be reviewed today, though Coun Stokes said the ACL process is a box-tick exercise and should it be granted it could easily be overturned.
He said: “I don’t know if the ACL is likely to be overturned but what we will do is look at the process and re-visit why the original application was refused.
“We have to be careful as granting an ACL is a tick-box exercise and the applicant has the right of appeal.
“So if we was to approve an ACL just because we thought it was a good thing to do, they could easily overturn it.”
When talking to the public, Coun Stokes made it clear the Council will fully support the effort in keeping Coventry Stadium and added the Council had spent 28 man hours searching for a new site – though nothing had been sourced as of yet.
He said: “We’re looking at Brandon because of the historic value and the fact that it’s a part of Rugby.
“There’s no role in this for any local authority or the Council at the moment.
“However because of the number of people we’ve had get in touch, we realise this is a massive deal for not only the residents of Rugby and Coventry but also on a national scale too.
“There’s no definite date on when the issue will be sorted but we’ve targeted the end of June as at this time of year Mick (Horton) and Dave (Carter) will need time to start planning for next season.”