Recently it has often seemed that planning officers speak directly on behalf of developers at Brent Planning Committee, rather than giving a balanced view in the light of an application's short-comings and the submissions of local residents.
Wednesday's application by Wembley National Stadium Ltd to increase the number of full capacity non-sporting events, an attendance of up to 90,000 rather than 51,000, is no exception.
Planning officers state:
Many objectors consider that the number of events currently held at the stadium already has an unacceptable level of impact on local residents. However, it should be borne in mind that this application does not affect the number of events that take place at the Stadium, just the capacity of the crowd. Unlimited events at up to 51,000 can take place within the terms of the existing planning consent. Additional mitigation measures would be secured. Some of these measures would relate to all major events and some would relate to the additional non-sporting events. These mitigation measures are considered to be sufficient to warrant the additional 9 full capacity events proposed.
They later remark:
WNSL do not currently intent to hold concerts on more than four consecutive nights.
Note the 'currently'.
Live music events contributed substantially to WNSL's income in the past and went into deficit when music events were scaled back from the 2015-16 and this is clearly an attempt to to retrieve the position. LINK
There were 37 representations made on the planning portal, including one from Barn Hill Residents Assocation. All but 2 were opposed to the application, one was in favour and 2 neutral.
Local residents were concerned about the impact of the increase on the quality of their daily lives, already impacted by crowds at the stadium in normal, non-Covid times.
This is the planning officers' conclusion to their report:
The objections received indicate that there is a level of impact currently experienced by local residents as a result of events at the stadium, with concerns predominantly focussed on anti-social behaviour, transport issues, air quality and noise. Some impacts are to be expected, given the size of the stadium and its siting in a location surrounded by residential properties and businesses, within a dense urban area.
The original cap on events was imposed to manage the impacts until such time as specific transport improvements had been made. Whilst most of these have taken place, not all of them have been realised. Circumstances have changed since the original planning permission in 2002, which suggest that the final piece of transport infrastructure (the Stadium Access Corridor) will not be provided in its originally envisaged form, but other changes to the road network have now taken place or are currently underway. Therefore, the Council considers that the cap remains relevant.
Clearly, to increase the number of higher capacity events to accommodate up to 9 additional major non-sporting events per event calendar year would imply an increase in the impact. However, a wide range of mitigation measures are proposed to help mitigate these impacts. There are ongoing efforts to reduce the number of vehicles on an event day. A number of mitigation measures are proposed to continue this work, including additional parking enforcement capacity and an updated Event Day Spectator Travel Plan to promote sustainable travel patterns. WNSL and public transport operators work closely to promote sustainable transport solutions and maximise the efficiency of the network. This in turn contributes to reducing noise and air quality issues.
Infrastructure works including two-way working in the area to the east of the stadium and the opening of a link between the western end of North End Road and Bridge Road to provide an east-west route past the Stadium that is capable of being kept open at all times before and after Stadium events will improve traffic flow in the area and assist residents’ movements on event days.
The Trusted Parking Scheme aims to ensure authorised car parks are responsibly run in a way that would limit their impact on neighbouring residents and reduce local congestion, whilst the Private Hire Management Scheme would reduce the number of vehicles in the area around the stadium after events have finished.
Employment and Training benefits for Brent residents would also be secured by the proposed scheme.
With regard to antisocial behaviour, a financial contribution would be paid by the Stadium to Brent Council per additional major non-sporting event. This would go towards mitigation measures as agreed between WNSL and the Council which may cover measures to address anti-social behaviour such as additional public toilets.
Whilst it is appreciated that local residents face challenges on event days, the direct economic benefits for the local Brent economy of stadium events are also recognised including spending on accommodation, food, drink and other ancillary items within the Wembley area. The uplift in the event cap would also create additional event day steward and catering positions. Whilst some types of business would suffer on event days, many would benefit from the influx of people to the area.
In summary, it is recognised that there is a level of impact associated with major events now, and that this would increase with an increase in the number of high-capacity major events. However, the measures proposed would ensure that this is moderated as much as is reasonably achievable. All are considered necessary to mitigate the increased number of major events which this application proposes.
A further consideration is that the stadium can be used for major events up to 51,000 now without restriction and remaining within this limit would mean that no additional mitigation measures would be formally secured. Measures including the training and employment opportunities would apply more broadly to stadium events, not just the additional major non-sporting events for which permission is sought under this application and would therefore provide wider benefits to local people and the local economy more generally.
The proposal is considered to accord with the development plan, having regard to material planning considerations. While there will inevitably be some additional impacts associated with an increase in the number of higher capacity non-sporting events, a range of mitigation measures are proposed, and some benefits are also anticipated. The proposal is, on balance, recommended for approval.