Agenda item

Planning Application No. 23/0875/VOC - Sandy Park Stadium, Sandy Park Way, Exeter

To consider the report of the Director City Development


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) presented the application for redevelopment to increase capacity from 10750 to 20600 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 six music concerts per year on weekends only for an attendance of up to 15,500 people per concert to take place between 1st May and 15th July inclusive, to avoid bank holiday weekends and any local school holidays, for an attendance of up to 15,500 people per concert.


The following key issues were set out:-


·         impact on residential amenity and heritage;

·         highway, access and parking; and

·         economy


As background, the Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) advised that the original consent to which this application pertains, ref. 12/1030/FUL, was 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, additional parking and bus/coach drop off and a conference centre to the south stand and Courtyard by Marriott Sandy Park to south with footbridge from hotel to stadium. As confirmed by a site visit on 14 March 2023 and by an email received from the applicant dated 16 March 2023, consent had been partially implemented and was, therefore, extant.


The recent application, ref. 23/0151/VOC, had been granted by Planning Committee in June 2023 for the 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.


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) further informed Members of the following:-


·         the application now sought to vary Condition 7 of planning application 12/1030/FUL to allow up to six music concerts per year on weekends only, for an attendance of up to 15,500 people per concert to take place between 1 May and 15 July avoiding local school half term and summer holidays, Furthermore the originally proposed small events (not including concerts) of no more than 5,000 people per event had been removed from the proposed condition variation;

·         following comments received from National Highways, the dates set out in the proposed condition variation wording had been amended to cover school half term summer holidays after 15 July;

·         the concerns of the statutory consultees - the local highways authority, National Highways and Environmental Health - had been overcome following the submission of additional information, and the omission of the originally proposed small events, and recommended conditions;

·         the statutory consultees’ objections were withdrawn and the amended conditions were set out in the update sheet; and

·         advice was issued to the applicants during the course of planning application, 23/0151/VOC, by technical consultees regarding data to be collected at the above events relating to noise and highways impacts. This data would be used to inform any future application for similar events. A Post Event Report by Clarke Saunders, dated 3 July 2023 had set out this data including complaints received for 2023 events.


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (CMB) further advised that 17 objections had been received, including from McMurdo Ltd on behalf of The Pratt Group (comprising The Sandy Park Farm Partnership together with Sidney Pratt (Builders) Ltd) which owned land immediately adjacent to the Exeter Chiefs Stadium. The objections were mainly noise pollution, traffic and parking issues/impact on the M5 Junction 30 and antisocial behaviour/alcohol and littering and the impact of these were set out in detail in the report.


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 which carried substantial positive weight in the planning balance. On balance, the benefits of the scheme were considered to outweigh any adverse impacts and the proposal represented sustainable development overall.


The recommendation was for approval, subject to the conditions set out in the report and the update sheet.


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


·         the operator would be Sandy Park and the permission would apply to events taking place in Sandy Park. Sandy Park would engage a preferred contractor and any event would comply with the conditions;

·         the application was for a permanent consent, the four events in June relating to temporary consent. The Club had requested a permanent consent at that time, but a trial period had been agreed instead;

·         the Club had collected data from the June events as requested by Devon County Council Highways, National Highways and Environmental Health which provided concrete evidence to support the application, all bodies requiring strict monitoring procedures and report back annually on the events previously held to inform how to proceed with new events;

·         the currently proposed conditions in respect of noise, antisocial behaviour and other issues considered to be potentially harmful were much stricter than the June events;

·         as it was an application for permanent permission a time limit could not be set;

·         capacity numbers had been incrementally increased for the June events, the applicant being able to do so within the event management strategy as highway improvements came forward. The numbers had been further increased by 500 to allow for staff attending the events

·         there would be staggered arrival times so that the influx of concert goers would be more dissipated;

·         National Highways had stipulated that the main event could not start earlier than 21:00 hours to reduce noise impact and avoid the sudden impact of people putting pressure on the motorway and Junction 30;

·         the club had offered a much lower noise limit than in June and lower than other venues in similar circumstances;

·         conditions required the use of two specific Park and Ride sites as well as supervision of pedestrian routes, including controls to prevent use of private driveways;

·         the noise limits within the conditions were those proposed by the applicant, the different levels to reflect their wish to have slightly different acts. These were assessed to be in compliance with national planning guidance and a 1995 guidance on noise limits for outdoor music events;

·         the conditions would reflect the submitted documents for planning approval for 10:30pm closure for Sunday events whilst a licensing condition requiring a 9:30 closure could be required;

·         the noise complaints reported in June were not in breach of the conditions but the relevant condition proposed had been tweaked to make it more rigorous. The lower limits proposed were to help mitigate the increased number of events sought and to reflect the more permanent nature of the application; and

·         a condition in respect of timing reflected the wish to dilute arrivals and also ensuring that attendees did not arrive before 4:00pm.


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


·         many of the residents who live close to Sandy Park were frustrated and considered that the granting of Sandy Park planning applications had already been decided;

·         noise levels had been monitored during the last Sandy Park concerts, but now, there was the potential for an attendance of 15,000 people;

·         further detail was required on the proposed six concerts and on which days they were to be held;

·         as with the rugby matches, people manoeuvre, park up, and drop off and collect, spectators, including a minibus, in Bishops Way which is a residents’ parking permits only area. This was dangerous to pedestrians and cyclistscrossing, at the top of Bishops Way;

·         signage to deter parking in Bishops Court, during any Sandy Park event was still lacking and there was little or no parking enforcement;

·         Sandy Park still allowed event attendees to come away from Sandy Park, with copious amounts of alcohol, which fuelled anti-social behaviour;

·         there was still no marshalling provision in the adjacent residential area, unlike the marshalling that occurredat University rugby matches that take place at Sandy Park; and

·         there were many "constants" but none of them benefitted the residents that live close/adjacent to Sandy Park, who felt that their genuine concerns and issues were being ignored.


Responding to a Member’s query, he advised that problems of noise had been apparent the day before some events which had not been monitored by Environmental Health officers.


Mark Isaacs, speaking in support of the application, raised the following points:-


·         granting planning would bring concerts to the city, which would benefit not just the club but also the wider community;

·         the club, which was solely owned by its members, had played a major part in the growth of Exeter over the past 17 years, bringing millions of pounds into businesses within the city. Rugby matches up to a capacity of 15,000 were regularl and successfully held and the venue had recently been chosen again to host the women’s rugby world cup in 2025 which would have a positive impact on the city. The Sandy Park Hotel had also brought a much needed 4-star hotel facility to the city;

·         there were very tight restrictions for the four events in June – some of the tightest restrictions imposed compared to any other venue in the UK, with most having later cut off times than those placed on Sandy Park;

·         the club had worked within the tight restrictions imposed;

·         the club had been flexible in its approach to ensure that it worked with the conditions for the benefit of both the City and the environment around Sandy Park and had worked with Environmental Health who had not objected, subject to the conditions. Highways England had not raised an objection and as part of the event management plan would ensure that the impact on the residents would be minimal. There was therefore no technical reason to object to the application; and

·         the amount of detailed work that had gone into this application would ensure that again these series of concerts would run as successfully as this year and would bring many benefits to both the Exeter Rugby Club and the City of Exeter for years to come.


He responded as follows to Members’ queries:-


·         15,000 was the maximum capacity sought for events, the additional 500 taking the total to 15,500 as set out in the application, was in respect of event staff;

·         the club would continue to work with residents to address their concerns around parking by minibuses etc. in residential areas, particularly the Bishops Court estate, through the provision of signage and a Traffic Regulation Order would be implemented;

·         it was made clear to attendees to respect the needs of residents. Close work was undertaken with key stakeholders to ensure little impact to the surrounding environment and ensuring residential areas were not impacted. A robust traffic management plan includesnot using the parking at Digby and attendees are directed to use the Newcourt Rail Halt;

·         cleaning teams were deployed into residential routes to the stadium and security strategically placed to deter anti-social behaviour; and

·         the club was willing to work with one of the strictest conditions for events of this nature and had a reduced decibel level of 65 for Sunday events and therefore feel that a 10:30pm finish is appropriate.


The Director City Development advised that there were two key issues, one relating to traffic impact especially on Junction 30 and the other to residents’ concerns relating to noise, parking, litter and anti-social behaviour all having been assessed by bodies independent of the Council using significant live, real time data rather than computer generated information.


Both Highways England and Devon County Council as statutory highway authority had no objections and had requested conditions as set out in the update sheet. Similarly, the City Council Environmental Health team had assessed the data, worked very closely with the applicant and recommended conditions accordingly having no objections to the proposal.


Concerns raised by a third party in respect of noise and the strong concern by residents had been rigorously examined and had been balanced against the  .

wider benefits the events would bring and with regard to significant steps by the club to ensure the events would be well managed.


Members expressed the following views:-


·         it was recognised that the restrictions placed on the club were quite severe and compared favourably with events held at two stadiums in a major English city;

·         concerts brought benefits to the city and any future issues emerging with acoustics could be examined;

·         the traffic flow was unlikely to clash with the Devon County Show;

·         the number of tickets sold did not reflect the stadium’s capacity;

·         robust conditions would mitigate the concerns raised with the continuation of concert events, in particular the controls in relation to opening and closing times, event management plans and parking controls and the use of the Exeter Safety Advisory Group; and

·         the current views of residents was unclear as there did not appear to be the same strength of opposition to the events as expressed earlier in the year.


The recommendation was moved, seconded and carried.


RESOLVED that planning permission for the redevelopment to increase capacity from 10750 to 20600 by three new grandstands, additional parking, bus/coach drop off and extension to west stand including conference centre to south stand. Variation of condition seven of 12/1030/FUL to allow up to six music concerts per year on weekends only between 1st May and 15th July inclusive, to avoid bank holiday weekends and any local school holidays, for an attendance of up to 15,500 people per concert be APPROVED, subject to the conditions set out in the report and the amended conditions set out in the update sheet.


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