I have been on the local Planning Committee for many years. There is a very strict code of conduct for how we consider applications. We can not pre-judge any application until we enter the meeting and hear all the arguments. We must listen to all arguments before we come to our conclusion on what the developer has submitted.
It is not always easy but that is how it is and how it must be. We must be fair to all parties and seen to be fair to all parties.
A few years ago one particular restriction was relaxed. This was that members should have no contact with developers before the meeting. We now can discuss issues about the possible application in pre-application meetings. These are sometimes arranged formally.
Now what does this have to do with the former Victoria Ground?
Over the last 19 years there have been many false dawns. As someone who lives very close to the Victoria Ground I know we have heard many rumours about what is going to happen there and even seen leaflets for proposed developments. They have all come to nothing. We have become very cynical about whether anything is ever going to happen there.
Recently though something has changed. St Modwen plc has passed the site to its subsidiary St Modwen Homes with a clear mandate to develop the site for housing. In recent weeks I have met on site with both the developer and with planning and other council officials to show them what my neighbours have told me are important to them (in addition to getting rid of the eyesore on our doorstep).
I haven't seen the application yet but there are some issues I know local people would want to see addressing:-
1. In our area there is very little green space. Apart from the wonderful Yeaman Street Park and the green on Summer Street there are few places to play or spend a little time in a green area. I hope that the application will provide some usable green space.
2. Also, the River Trent needs to be accessible. The stretch through the site is one of the few in the City where you can not walk along the Trent - this is the river that gave our City (and town) its name! It must be opened up and the path made continous from Stoke Town Centre to Hanford.
3. Finally the heritage of the site. Anyone who follows Stoke City will know of the history of the ground that saw the likes of Stanley Matthews, Gordon Banks, Jimmy Greenhoff, Alan Hudson, John Ritchie and Mark Stein make at least half the population of the City very happy. I am certain that an innovative scheme could be developed to mark the site's heritage.
As I have said I have not seen the application yet but we shall all be able to see what is planned and comment on it soon. The developer tells me that they are holding a public exhibition on Thursday 15th September 2016 at 3:30pm to 7:00pm in Stoke Minster Primary School.
I hope to see you there