How the Football Club came to be Holding the Baby.

The Lyme Regis Town Council being rather embarrassed, having done so little for the encouragement of sport in the town, on the contrary even asphalting over the Woodmead tennis courts to increase their revenue from car parking, saw the opportunity of providing some facilities when Strawberry Field became available. 50 to 60,000 was the asking price and obviously they thought it a bargain. Although one can wonder just how much thought was actually put into considering the practicalities of providing sports facilities on such a sloping, exposed, obtrusive and politically difficult site, all the same they went ahead with great enthusiasm and very little caution.

Early in the spring of 2002, the town council having bought the land, made an Outline Planning Application. The terms of the application were so vague that it was difficult to know exactly what was being proposed for the site. The West Dorset District Council rightly so requested that the town council withdrew the application, which they did. It was about this time that the town council decided against common sense, not to enquire regarding the kind of development that the WDDC would in fact allow on the site. Alternatively a further, but more detailed, outline planning application could have been submitted. The town council having been rather put out by being forced to withdraw the original application and surprised by the amount of opposition to their plans decided not to go through the humiliation again, but let the Lyme Regis Football Club literally work as their agent and obtain the necessary planning consent. The fact that a fee of 2,700 would have to be paid to make a planning application may have been a deterrent.

The site was leased to the football club for a peppercorn rent of 50 per annum for 25 years and this was obviously a price they could not refuse. The football club then, following the council's bad example of not first obtaining outline permission, foolishly went ahead with fund raising for a project that may never happen.

The fact must not be forgotten that although it is the football club making these applications, the town council own the land, devised the plan, are conversant with planning law and on this are aiding and abetting the infringement of planning recommendations, namely that you don't encourage development in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or outside the area set aside for development in the Local Plan. The fact that the town council and the district council currently share two members and that the district council is responsible for providing sporting facilities made this planning issue very dubious. To make matters worse the two shared members, councillors Lovell and Meech, had now been made chairman and vice-chairman of the Development Control West Committee, the planning committee responsible for deciding on planning applications in the Lyme Regis and Bridport areas. Cllrs. Lovell and Meech have been outspoken and active in the Strawberry Fields acquisition and the proposed sports development and their involvement was detrimental to local democracy. On top of this the people destined to have been most affected by the development living in the Devon parish of Uplyme had no means of being represented in this application neither by their parish council, district council nor county council.

With all these contentious issues the only option for a fair decision on this application was to have it "Called-In" for a decision to be made by the Secretary of State who would have taken into account the position of the people living in Devon.The full planning application now having been withdrawn, the calling-in fall back option is yet to be put to the test.

Why was the second application withdrawn?
One of two, if not both, reasons. The case officer's report was so comprehensively damning that, and we are to understand that this is the official reason, the football club thought that they had very little chance of the application being successful or that the football club were relying so much on the good will of the two town councillors to push through the application, that when they both gave notice that they would abstain from voting at the hearing, the club realised that their case was impossible.

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