A HIGHLY-ANTICIPATED decision on whether to approve a planning application made to Harrow Council over Barnet Football Club’s stadium The Hive has been stalled.
Stephen Kelly, the authority’s divisional director of planning, admitted to the committee last night that he was “embarrassed” that the council were not prepared to be able to recommend on whether or not the decision should be approved.
Barnet Football Club are looking for approval from Harrow Council on a number of alternations to The Hive, formerly known as the Prince Edwards Playing Fields, including an increase in the height of floodlights and an increase in the capacity of the west stand.
Mr Kelly told the committee that he was told by the council’s legal advice that the planning department can only recommend a deferral on the decision as the council has not yet assessed whether or not an environmental impact assessment is required before putting the application to the vote.
He said at the meeting: “I’m embarrassed to report this to you at this late stage. It’s an important part of the process that we have failed to take.”
The Observer understands that late on Wednesday evening, councillors were given a recommendation on the application, and then yesterday at 1pm, only a matter of hours before the vote, were given a totally different recommendation.
The planning committee’s chairman, Independent Labour’s Councilor William Stoodley, has previously said that The Hive is his number one priority as chair of the committee, and was disappointed at the recommendation from Mr Kelly.
“I feel we have been messed about,” he told the committee. “The council has been messed about, the residents have been messed about.
“I intend to look in to this and I hope this never happens again.”
Half of the six members of the planning committee voted in agreement with Mr Kelly for a deferral, and the other half abstained.
Labour’s Queensbury ward councillor Sachin Shah has been at the forefront of The Hive debate, previously riling against the impact that Barnet's tenure at The Hive would have on neighbouring households. Last night however he did sympathise with Tony Kleanthous, Barnet’s chairman who was also present, and voiced his frustration that a decision could not be made due to a lack of a decision on whether an environmental impact assessment was required.
“The applicant has put in a planning application and should have it heard. This is an absolute disgrace," he said.
“This council is in disarray and is failing in its duties.”
After the vote had taken place, Mr Stoodley insisted again that he would get to the bottom of why the planning department were only in a position to recommend a deferral.