Coventry Stadium: An Update

A public meeting was held at Brandon Hall Hotel on Tuesday 6 November at 7:30pm to update local residents and speedway and stock car fans on the situation regarding Coventry Stadium. The conference room, supplied at no cost to the campaign group, was set up for 200 people but so many turned up it was standing room only and finding a car park space was more difficult than the last Birmingham meeting!

Paul Hines, Nigel and Jake Harrhy and Steve Smith were among the drivers I spotted along with Mike Shirley and Robin Izzard from the Heritage racers. Three British Speedway champions were also present along with Michael Stokes, leader of Rugby Council and Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby and Bulkington. BBC Midlands Today and interviewers from two local radio stations were reporting on the meeting with coverage in the early evening and late night TV bulletins.

Save Coventry Speedway campaign team are still fighting hard for the stadium

Michael Stokes, whilst not being a speedway or stock car fan, said he had never before come across an issue that had so many people, so passionate about their cause contact him from all over the world and that inspired him to give as much help as he could to the Save Coventry Stadium campaign. That said, Michael is in a difficult situation – the council has a legal obligation to consider the planning application from Brandon Estates and if he were to be seen or even perceived to be influencing the planning committee decision it would be detrimental and could give the developers a reason to challenge any decision made. He did however say that today he had instructed his officers to seek some professional, specialist services in the sporting field to ensure that the information given by the developers is accurate and in line with what he would expect for a stadium such as Brandon. The cost for these services would be met by Rugby Council. He also added that he had asked for the planning application not to be considered until the Local Plan was finalised and the report from the government inspector was received.

Mark Pawsey also gave a short speech confirming his support for the campaign, being a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for speedway. He rightly said that once a sporting facility is lost it is lost forever and whilst he had no part in the application process he would do all he could to see Brandon survive.

Jeff Davies then went through events since January 2017 in detail before Dave Carter gave an explanation of the Local Plan process. Dave Rowe then centred on the discrepancies in the “Needs Analysis” report produced by Turleys for Framptons in which they sought to show that racing at Coventry Stadium was not viable and that there were sufficient alternative stadia within the Midlands. There were some interesting “facts” revealed here, all of which were debunked by the campaign team and I will concentrate more on the stock car related ones, this being a stock car website.

Framptons, for Brandon Estates claim that the capacity of Coventry Stadium is only 5000 – Dave Rowe stated that the 2016 Stock Car world final had a crowd of over 10,000 and if I remember correctly the place was not completely full that night. He also confirmed that it was stock car racing that made the place viable and this was the reason for BE stating that “stock car racing would never return to Coventry Stadium”. Coventry Racing Club accountants confirmed that, apart from the years when greyhound racing was run at Coventry, motorsport, ie speedway and stock car racing actually returned a profit.

The report goes on to say that there are sufficient tracks within an hour’s drive of Brandon to render the stadium surplus to requirements.  They cited Stoke as one such alternative and also looked at other tracks that could or already do hold F1 stock car racing and came up with the following list:

  • Perry Barr, Birmingham
  • Birmingham Wheels
  • Beaumont Park, Leicester
  • Hednesford Hills
  • Northampton
  • Trent Raceway

Birmingham is already under threat, Hednesford has strict limits on when it can run (notwithstanding the fact that both are tarmac) and Leicester has insufficient pit space, parking facilities and noise issues to make it unviable. Northampton is now shale as we know but like Stoke has basic facilities and neither track is a replacement for Coventry.

According to the Turley report, Perry Barr is currently an active stock car track (!) and, although I have never been to Trent Raceway, I have seen videos of the racing there. It is basically a dirt track in a field and the thought of 30 + F1 stock cars charging around there beggars belief.

They also go on to say that there is only a small percentage of people in the Coventry and Warwickshire area who want to take up speedway or stock car racing which again renders the stadium unviable, completely missing the point that both are spectator sports.

All of the errors and untruths contained in the Turley report have been challenged by the campaign committee and in the “any questions” section at the end of the meeting Jeremy Heaver stated that he had seen the report and had written to BE asking them to withdraw it “as it was littered with untruths” (not the word he used) and if they failed to do so action would be taken.

The meeting closed at 9:30 pm and I would like to go on record in thanking the Save Coventry Stadium campaign team for a very professional, detailed presentation and for all the painstaking work they have put in over the last two years. A decision on the planning application is not expected to be made for a few weeks but Jeff Davies confirmed that whatever the result the fight will go on.

Words and photos: Mick Jenkins

Standing room only – an impressive turn out for the meeting

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