‘What is wrong with planning officers?’

Scarborough Rugby Club chief executive Graeme Young, in front of the Silver Royd development as it was being built   084737a
Scarborough Rugby Club chief executive Graeme Young, in front of the Silver Royd development as it was being built 084737a

Environmental Health couldn’t see a problem and planning chiefs reccommended it should be given the go-ahead following a series of probes into noise levels at the site.

But two years down the line Scarborough Rugby Club is still battling for the right to play music at games after councillors chose to ignore planning advice and amend a key licensing clause.

As the club’s legal fees hit £42,000, its chief executive Graeme Young has pledged not to give up the fight.

“For two years we have tried to work within the system bringing people on board, but we are banging our heads against a brick wall,” he said.

“We have no choice but to take a legal route.

“That’s the sad indictment of the planning process in Scarborough.

“Some of the planning councillors should wake up to what’s happening in the real world with the state of the economy and how difficult many families and organisations are finding it to survive.”

His comments come just two weeks after Scarborough planners again went against officers’ advice and turned down an application for a Barratt housing development in Cayton.

The 162-home scheme, which included underground storage for excess rainwater, had been supported by a number of agencies including Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency and Scarborough Council’s engineers.

But councillors echoed residents’ concerns that the area, on land west of Station Road and south of West Garth, was the lowest point in Cayton and might flood.

Six unknown committee members voted against the plan, five were in favour and there were two abstentions. We cannot reveal the names of those councillors who blocked the request because the vote was not recorded.

“There are some tremendously hard working councillors in Scarborough who are going out and advertising that the town is open for business and it appears a small number of planning councillors are ripping that sign down,” said Mr Young, who works as a property developer.

“For something like the Cayton development to be recommended by experts on technical grounds only to be turned down is astonishing. In the likelihood that Barratt appeals, are the six councillors who voted against it going to split the cost of that appeal?”

Footing the bill for legal costs is all too familiar for rugby club bosses as a substantial amount of cash has already been spent attempting to vary the conditions of its licence.

It has been a bitter pill for Mr Young to swallow. “After adding up the cost of legal fees and various reports our bill now stands at £42,000. That money could have funded new junior teams, it could have contributed to the extension of facilities and paid for the travel to away games for every team in the club for the next five years.

“However, we have started down this route and we will see it through to allow us to utilise the facility to its full potential.”

When planning permission for the £4million Silver Royd complex was granted in 2007, planners ruled that no functions or events should be held that involved amplified music or sound outside the clubhouse without written consent. It is known simply as Condition 42 – a clause which has sent shivers down the spine of the club’s volunteers.

Mr Young said: “It appeared to be fair and reasonable and we were given assurances that consent would not be unreasonably withheld. The condition gave the council a degree of control and we were satisfied.

“However, the planning committee has twice chosen to ignore expert advice, planning guidelines and common sense when they ignored the officers recommendations.

“Now we are questioning whether we are ever going to be able to receive a fair hearing on any application within the terms of Condition 42. We are the only venue which has this level of restriction.”

After twice being refused permission, the club has now handed over its case to a specialist firm of planning lawyers who will help determine the next course of action.

“Both of our previous applications were made following full consultation with Environmental Health and the last application was supported by a costly and comprehensive sound report,” said Mr Young.

“The music element of our application which was refused would have allowed for music to be no louder than 50 decibels (dB) in the nearest gardens and only four times a year finishing at 6pm. Normal conversation is 65dB. The council has just extended its own use-time of the Open Air Theatre to 11pm 365-days-a-year and the maximum permitted output is 95dB until 11pm. Is this a level playing field?”

Throughout the two-year battle, members of the council’s planning committee have maintained their decision has been based on the impact on residents in surrounding villages following complaints over noise levels.

But the club says that there was lobbying against it, with concerted encouragement to protest over the requests.