Agenda item

Planning Application No 23/0151/VOC - Sandy Park Stadium, Stadium Park Way, Exeter

To consider the report of the Director City Development.



The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) presented the application for the re-development to increase capacity from 10,750 to 20,600 by three new grandstands, additional parking, bus/coach drop off and extension to west stand including conference centre to south stand (Variation of condition 7 of 12/1030/FUL to allow up to four music concerts on 17, 18, 24, 25 June 2023 only for an attendance of up to 15,000 people per concert.) (REVISED WORDING FOR CONDITION 7 VARIATION)


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) advised that original consent had been granted on 29 October 2012 comprising an increase capacity from 10,750 to 20,600 with three new grandstands, additional parking and bus/coach drop off; extension to west stand and a conference centre to south stand. It was also reported that the original consent had been for a permanent increase in capacity from the previous 10,744 to 20,600 in the form of an extension to the West stand and new permanent stands on the remaining three sides of the ground. These had been partially implemented and was, therefore, extant. Since the original consent had been granted, the Courtyard by Marriott Sandy Park has been completed to the south of the site, which had a footbridge connecting the hotel to the stadium site.


The report presented setting out the following key issues:-


·              the principle of development;

·         impact on character and appearance including landscaping;

·         impact on residential amenity and heritage;

·         highways, access and parking;

·         ecology and contaminated land;

·         air quality;

·         flood risk;

·         sustainable construction; and

·         economy.


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) advised that the application sought to vary Condition seven of the planning permission in order to hold public performances of musical events to be held at the stadium. The originally proposed variation to Condition seven had been to allow up to eight music concerts per calendar year for an attendance of up to 15,000 people. This proposal had been amended so that the site shall not be used for public performance of musical events except to allow up to four music concerts on 17, 18, 24, 25 June 2023 only for an attendance of up to 15,000 people per concert.


A total of 41 representations had been received from separate addresses including three neutral and two in support. 36 letters of objection had been received, mostly concerning the impact on the residential amenity of noise, antisocial behaviour, traffic and parking, anti-social behaviour in residential areas and lack of due process regarding marketing and sale of tickets prior to planning consent. The presentation set out in detail the issues raised in the objections and the mitigating measures associated with each.


It was also recognised that objections initially raised by the Environmental Health Officer, the County Highways Authority and National Highways had been withdrawn.


Notwithstanding the above, it was considered that the proposed music events would give rise to economic benefits for the rugby club and the wider area, including the provision of employment opportunities. This carried substantial positive weight in the planning balance. It was considered that the proposal was capable of policy compliance, subject to conditions. On balance, the benefits of the scheme were considered to outweigh any adverse impacts the proposal representing sustainable development overall presenting the following positive aspects:-


·         the proposed music events would be held within an existing stadium and not conflict with its primary purpose of holding rugby matches;

·         it provides opportunity for employment together with community and leisure activities and mixed uses to support vitality of area;

·         it contributes to the overall economic vitality of the City;

·         it is considered acceptable, subject to conditions regarding impact of residential amenity and highways;

·         only four fixed dates are proposed; and

·         any future application will be informed by data obtained from these events and assessed on their own merits.


The application was recommended for approval, in line with National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 11 (c).


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) responded to Members’ queries:-


·         all operational times are set out in the report with the staff undertaking clear up after concerts with the staff car parking located outside the adjacent hotel;

·         Sunday concerts are limited to one and not two on the same day reflecting changes in detail as the proposal emerged through the licensing process. Four concerts on four days are proposed;

·         start and arrival times reflect the aim of diluting the number of spectators arriving and departing at the same time and times can be changed through condition;

·         there is a limit of 75 decibels at the nearest receptor, although the consultants believe that the level will be below 75. The management and monitoring plan agreed with the applicant includes real time monitoring during the event which will enable adjustment of levels at front of house. A condition regarding the receptor level is more appropriate than one at front of house;

·         the Digby Park and Ride will be closed during the concerts to limit pedestrian flow through Clyst Heath;

·         roads in the Bishops Court estate are not adopted; and

·         some of the documentation covers the whole of the site with access strategies relating to specific events ensuring that conferences will not be held at the same time.


Councillor Bialyk, having given notice under Standing Order No. 44, spoke on the item. He raised the following points:-


·         The Exeter Core Strategy – vision Exeter would embrace its role in the region by delivering development to enhance Exeter’s position as a premier retail and cultural destination;

·         The Local Plan Review: included the aim to create a prosperous city, and a cultural and fun place to be;

·         The 2020 Exeter vision was to enhance Exeter as the regional capital. That became the guiding mission statement for Exeter City Council;

·         The City Council’s stated purpose in respect of its cultural offering has been to provide great things for people to do and see;

·         The new Exeter 2040 vision says Exeter will be known internationally as a city of Culture and “Exeter will be a young people friendly city.” It is a great place to live, recognised nationally and internationally;

·         Exeter Chiefs have put Exeter on the international map for Sport, it provides entertainment and it has certainly enhanced the quality of life for people living and visiting the city;

·         The incremental development of the facilities at Sandy Park is a deliberate strategy to allow for the steady increase in capacity to be accommodated on the transport network. Anyone visiting Sandy Park has to think about their journey, and it works;

·         The Stadium has proven it can manage capacity crowds;

·         Exeter does not have a large performance venue. A young people friendly city should have the opportunity to see good bands/acts;

·         Providing things for people to do and see in the city attracts overnight hotel stays. This benefits our local economy;

·         Occasionally, the city has been able to support gigs at Northernhay Gardens but the capacity is very limited;

·         The Council’s attitude has been one of balancing the need to provide things for people to see and do with not unduly impacting on residential amenity. As with so many things it is a balance;

·         Sandy Park on the periphery of the city, close to Junction 30 alongside the M5 with its relatively high ambient background noise levels from the motorway, in a purpose-built stadium, is a good location for hosting a relatively small number of music events;

·         The pitch can only be used for non-rugby events on a very limited number of weeks in the summer when the pitch is scheduled to be re-laid;

·         In the summer sunset times are after 9pm, at Sandy Park the direction of the stage would project the music away from residential areas towards the M5 and the predominantly rural areas;

·         A much-needed opportunity to bolster the finances of the Chiefs. Worcester and Wasps went into administration this past season and unfortunately there has been some concern raised in recent weeks with London Irish;

·         Supporting local businesses is important and it goes to the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework to support business and the local economy.

·         In conclusion:-


·   the city of Exeter needs the addition of this amenity;

·   it is consistent with the Development Plan and the City of Exeter’s vision to support a young city and a culturally important city;

·   it adds another level of interest for visitors to the city and to provide things for people to see in the city;

·   it can be achieved without harming residential amenities and without harming the highway network;

·   this is a reasonable proposal and should be welcomed;

·   Members have the appropriate controls through licensing to ensure the activity is managed sensitively;

·   I believe a 11.00pm limit to be reasonable for these limited number of days in the summer, but anyhow that is matter that licensing can appropriately address.


He responded as follows to Members’ queries:-


·         issues relating to noise would be dealt with by the licensing conditions and it was not believed that families in the area would be adversely affected; and

·         economic conditions and other factors have changed since the original planning consent in 2012 which had excluded live music events.


Councillor Holland, having given notice under Standing Order No. 44, spoke on the item. He raised the following points:-


·         Exeter Chiefs have brought a huge amount to Exeter and instigated the Exeter Chiefs Foundation;

·         Worcester Warriors and Wasps Rugby Clubs have disbanded partly due to lack of income during Covid. Exeter Chiefs fared better but accrued significant debt and have explored revenue streams to plug the gaps. Visitors who attend such concerts may stay for a longer period and there will be a hidden economic benefit to the City;

·         there are risks associated, such as the impact on the quality of life if living close to a sports stadium and concert venue;

·         I represent over 7,000 residents across 4,000 households, 1,000 of these households are in the LA Polling District which is a distinct geographical area between the A379 and Rydon Lane.  It includes the Digby, Kings Heath, Clyst Heath and Bishops Court developments;

·         There have missed opportunities to engage with the people living in the shadow of Sandy Park regarding the application to vary the licensing conditions and now an additional use for the stadium. It would have been helpful if the Club had met with the community to discuss plans as with other developments affecting the St Loyes ward such as Morrisons, Hammersons, etc. recognising that the Members were the resident facing side of the Council;

·         as the local councillor for St.Loyes Ward I have received multiple representations from residents regarding the application. There are 41 on the web site, 2 in favour, 3 neutral and 36 against;

·         residents living on the Bishops Court/Redrow Development are dismayed that, in spite of 'conditions' imposed by the Licensing Sub Committee, Exeter Rugby Club Limited have now appealed these conditions, not yet been heard by the Magistrates;

·         the residents of St. Loyes and others such as the Digby Residents Association undertake monthly litter picks across the Ward. Without exception, at the conclusion of a Rugby match a minority of spectators exit the ground frequently leaving a trail of rubbish in their wake;

·         most rugby matches take place during daylight hours - any outdoor concerts will have huge gantries with lighting, some likely flashing, during the evening impacting on the immediate neighbourhood;

·         in the transport strategy agreed with the local authorities it is essential that there is an even spread of supporters arriving and leaving the stadium. Currently Bishops Court and Digby are extended parking ranks for people picking up spectators after a match. A condition should be placed on Exeter Rugby Club Ltd. that an element of the ticket price include the shuttle bus to the various Park and Ride car parks. Structured in this way the exiting people may be better managed;

·         the events are planned for the Summer months including Sundays when residents will likely have their windows open. So many of the families have young children and need to get them to sleep for school next day. Equally those folk working need sleep to function in their place of work; and

·         the estates of Kings Heath, Clyst Heath, Digby and Bishops Court have open plan gardens which leaves the states open for folk to take ‘short cuts’ on their route home.


Kevin Cook, speaking against the application, raised the following points:-


·         the original condition seven agreed in 2012 was before a number of additional properties were built in the area around the stadium;

·         I am one of the near 40 objectors to the scheme, but there are more who feel this application is a "fait accompli". Residents who have objected, in writing and verbally, will be feeling that they are collateral damage;

·         the substantial objections testify to the antisocial behaviour, traffic and parking violations, and damage to the environment, that residents already experience with rugby matches at Sandy Park  and the granting of this application will exacerbate these issues if robust conditions are not included in any granting of this expansion application;

·         residents, especially those with children, are contemplating having to relocate their children into quieter bedrooms, if these concerts go ahead;

·         the parking statistics/formulas used are debatable and they will not prevent people violating parking restrictions in residential areas, especially at the top of Bishops Way, adjacent to the pedestrian/cycle path leading to Sandy Park. Bishops Way will resemble Wembley Way;

·         the application should have been assessed on a “change of use” basis;

·         the planning application should be multi-dimensional but has ended up as a one dimensional application - driven by finance. Some of that finance needs to be "ring fenced", solely for the provision of robust crowd dispersal, marshalling, prevention of anti-social behaviour and parking enforcement. Approval of this application, would be extremely detrimental to the whole area without these conditions being in place and it would be in Sandy Park’s interest to facilitate/participate in these conditions;

·         what next with future Sandy Park planning applications and will Sandy Park events, including music and entertainment, be the perennial soundtrack to residents’ lives?; and

·         clarification is required as to the suggestion that the four events over two consecutive weekends might contravene the licensing conditions. Tickets are being sold for each concert separately, there isn’t a “weekend ticket” that includes both concerts, so there are clearly four events, not two.


He responded as follows to Members’ queries:-


·         the club do not accept responsibility for the behaviour of fans once they leave the ground;

·         there has been a lack of consultation by the club and I have not been consulted personally;

·         a reduced proposal of four concerts over two weekends remains unacceptable;

·         antisocial behaviour includes damage to property, using private driveways to order taxis and fighting amongst match goers near to residential properties;

·         there have been numerous parking violations at the Bishop’s Court/Apple Way junction; and

·         there is evidence that marshals leave the area before all of the fans have dispersed.


Tony Rowe CBE, speaking in support of the application, raised the following points:-


·         speaking as the Chief Executive Officer of the Exeter Chiefs which is a members’ owned club and have used my business expertise to develop the club over the last 30 years, including significant financial investment;

·         the club is 150 years old and relocated to Sandy Park 17 years ago;

·         the Club incurred significant financial loses during the Covid Pandemic and needs to recoup losses;

·         Sandy Park is a purpose built stadium that includes conference and banqueting facilities;

·         the noise generated during rugby matches is largely contained within the stadium;

·         Sandy Park has a capacity of up to 15,000 and regularly holds 12,000 for rugby matches;

·         the application is to hold music events for which it will be necessary to obtain a variation to condition seven;

·         the club has listened to the concerns raised and, with 17 years’ experience of traffic management in and around Sandy Park, has consulted with National Highways Agency and Devon County Council Highways to agree a traffic management plan; and

·         an event management plan has been agreed as one of the licensing conditions.


He responded as follows to Members’ queries:-


·         leaflets had been hand delivered to surrounding residential properties detailing the events which included a dedicated contact line and event details were included on the Exeter Chiefs website;

·         litter picking after concerts around the stadium can be organised;

·         these are trial events and attendances of approximately 5,000 are anticipated;

·         in accordance with the environmental assessment, it is agreed that the gates will open at 5pm and not 4pm;

·         no fireworks will take place as part of the events in accordance with the agreed licensing conditions;

·         whilst the club has no authority in this matter, the suggestion of providing marshals at the Apple Way/Bishops Court junction to discourage parking by concert goers will be discussed with the Exeter Chiefs Management Team;

·         the club discourages parking in the Digby Park and Ride Car park;

·         with free shuttle buses being provided;

·         the concerts will offer a different social event at Sandy Park to rugby matches and it is anticipated that the concert goers will be a different cohort to rugby watching spectators and, accordingly, result in a different atmosphere and behaviour.


The Director City Development provided the following concluding points:-


·         the proposal was to amend condition seven of the planning permission to permit four concert events over two weekends;

·         it presented an unique opportunity for real time monitoring by City Council and County Council officers to take place on noise and traffic related issues respectively. The data could then be used to assess the suitability of any further concert events the club may wish to promote;

·         if the Committee is minded to approve the application, detailed consideration of additional conditions will be required for which delegated authority to the Director and officers is sought;

·         whilst licensing conditions are complementary to those required as part of the planning permission, both are independent of each other; and

·         there is clear consensus from both the Highways Agency and Devon County Council Highways that there will be no adverse highways impact. Real time data to be obtained will evaluate the impact of the events on the highways network.


Responding to Members’ queries, the Director City Development advised that:-


·         the Planning Committee is unable to alter conditions set by Licensing which is covered by separate legislation and there should be no regard to the current appeal in respect of the licensing approval;

·         any report emerging from the real-time monitoring will be considered at the same time as any further planning application from the club for concert events. The Senior Environment Technical Officer confirmed that Environmental Health Officers often undertook real-time monitoring of late night and other events and that it was the intention to provide a package of information and evidence as part of the post event assessment of the event management plan; and

·         the grant of permission would not set a precedent for any future concert plans, each would be subject to planning permission and considered on their merits.


The meeting adjourned at 21:55 and re-convened at 22:00.


Members expressed the following views:-


·         400 to 500 residents in the neighbouring area will be affected and strict conditions are necessary if permission is granted;

·         a condition in respect of timing should ensure gate opening time of 5:00pm not 4:00pm and end times being brought forward to 10:00pm for Saturday concerts and 9:00pm for Sunday concerts to ensure that the stadium has been cleared by 11:00pm and 10:00pm respectively;

·         the marketing of the events, distribution of flyers etc. was premature and disconcerting to the neighbouring residential area and the Club should have acted in better faith;

·         can a Police presence be provided for the concerts and warden control of parking in the Bishops Court estate?;

·         a condition is needed to ensure the closure of the Digby Park and Ride; and

·         Devon County Council to be requested to provide real time monitoring of the traffic conditions as part of the arrangements for the concerts.


Responding to Members’ requests for amended and/or additional conditions, the Director City Development advised that, given delegated authority, these matters must be considered with regard to planning regulations, respecting the licensing decision and conditions and reflecting existing and ongoing dialogue with the club on the events and the associated management plan. The club itself may wish to review its arrangements for the events in light of the public concerns raised, independently of the planning conditions ultimately agreed. The following were put forward as additional elements to be considered in the context of formulating and reviewing overall conditions as part of the delegated authority sought:-


·         stadium management and control in relation to opening and closing times and activities in and around the stadium;

·         parking and control;

·         noise and its impact on the neighbourhood and how it is managed and controlled;

·         litter; and

·         post event management.


The Chair moved the recommendation with the suggested amendments set out above to be considered by the Director City Development subject to prior consultation with the Chair which was seconded, voted upon and carried.


RESOLVED that, subject to prior consultation with the Chair, the Director City Development on potential additional conditions and/or amended existing conditions, be granted delegated authority to APPROVE planning permission for the re-development to increase capacity from 10,750 to 20,600 by three new grandstands, additional parking, bus/coach drop off and extension to west stand including conference centre to south stand (Variation of condition 7 of 12/1030/FUL to allow up to 4 music concerts on 17, 18, 24, 25 June 2023 only for an attendance of up to 15,000 people per concert.) (REVISED WORDING FOR CONDITION 7 VARIATION be approved subject to the conditions set out in the report.




Supporting documents: