Saveourstow thank the APPGG for meeting L & Q and for their continued full support. We note that L&Q was described as ‘evasive’ and ‘unduly negative’ by the APPGG (note of meeting below). This is after being branded as liars by Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith. This is consistent with the stance of L&Q over the past three years-quite happy to totally ignore the wishes of local MP’s, Ward Councillors, the general public and the Mayor of London whilst wasting multi millions of taxpayers’ money.
L&Q has deceived the APPGG in the same way that they have deceived all before them. They state that the site is ’not for sale’. Why then have they met with Bob Morton 3 times including in the presence of the Council Leader and Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith and Stella Creasy MP with the clear agenda to see if a deal could be struck? Why, after the meetings, have they stated that Bob’s bid of £9m does not meet their value of the site? More L&Q lies and deception.
On questioning by Sir Alan Meale MP as to why a publicly funded company should commission a report in to greyhound racing, L&Q’s response was that it was ‘needed to support our application to illustrate that the alternatives were not viable’. Or put another way-the only chance that L&Q has of having their ill fated, deeply unpopular plans passed is by showing Bob Morton’s plans to be unviable. The simple fact is that Bob’s plans are completely viable-it should be remembered that the land listing is D2 (Assembly and Leisure) and Bob is re-instating the designated leisure use to the site, unlike L&Q.
What is almost beyond belief is that L&Q refused to make public this commissioned report despite the fact that the public has paid for it-how can anyone make a judgment regarding this report without seeing it.
We consider below the 4 reasons given in the meeting for Bob’s plans allegedly being ‘undeliverable’:
1. ‘Physical constraints on the type of housing proposed’– How can this be when L&Q’s layout for their housing on the southern perimeter is almost identical? Bob Morton’s housing mix is compatible with Waltham Forest policy.
2. ‘Planning constraints’-This makes no sense at all. Bob’s proposals conform to the main planning constraint which is to retain a viable leisure use. L&Q’s plans fly in the face of planning guidance. Furthermore we have received a Letter of Comfort from Waltham Forest Planning department which stated in response to Mr. Morton’s plans ‘This mix of uses is, in principle acceptable, for this site’.
3. ‘Lack of due diligence’– How ironic. Had L&Q undertook proper due diligence at the start they would not have bought the site and deprived the community of jobs and leisure. They would not have had to slash their plans from the original 520 units to the current 300 odd units at a further loss of several millions to the taxpayer- with no realistic chance of achieving this. Their plans include 8 storey high rise blocks (against Urban Development guidelines), no worthwhile leisure (against Council directives), underground parking (against the wishes of the police) and the demolition of a Listed Building (against English Heritage demands). And all against the wishes of the local community.
In contrast, Bob Morton has undertook complete due diligence. He already owns a successful greyhound track, he has undertook a complete feasibility study, he has met with Waltham Forest Council and local MP’s on a number of occasions, he has ensured that the housing mix is fully compatible with Council aspirations and he has fully costed and budgeted for all costs. Additionally, he has pledged to make the multi use facility a London Living Wage Employer and offer full community involvement. Most importantly, Mr. Morton’s plans can offer more affordable residential units than L&Q’s.
4. ‘Mr. Morton’s estimate to refurbish the stadium for racing at £6m is significantly too low’-Again totally wrong. Mr. Morton has fully detailed quotations showing the complete refurbishment of the stadium within this budget, including one from Ardmore Construction Ltd, one of the UK’s largest building contractors.
L&Q’s arrogance is extraordinary. They are living up to Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith’s recent description: ‘L&Q are increasingly behaving like a disingenuous property speculator, not like a taxpayer-funded RSL, and this is unacceptable’. They can sit in front of MP’s stating that nothing is their fault and that they will forge ahead with their plans but everyone knows the truth-they made one almighty mistake of purchasing a perfectly viable greyhound stadium and the only way they can try to escape is by land banking the site using public money to do so. Mike Johnson, Steve Yianni and Chief Executive David Montague should be dismissed for gross mis-management of public funds and deceiving the public and L&Q as a company must be brought to account by Parliament.
In response to Mr. Ian Lavery MP, Saveourstow can promise that we will never give up. We will continue to fight for what is morally and legally right which is the retention of the fully viable greyhound racing stadium.
As for London & Quadrant, they are a deceitful, arrogant organization who are quite prepared to lie to Members of Parliament, deceive the public, and waste multi millions of taxpayers’ money whilst completely ignoring the wishes of the public that pay their wages…THEY MUST BE STOPPED
Notes from meeting:
An independent report into the viability of greyhound racing is part of the current planning application to develop the Walthamstow Stadium site. It was revealed at the Monday agm of the All Party Parliamentary Greyhound Group that the report was among the twenty seven documents in a planning bid currently with Waltham Forest Council for around 300 new homes.
Social housing association London & Quadrant is behind the £50m new development. It was invited to attend the meeting of the APPGG at Westminster after longstanding member concerns that opportunities to buy the land and return racing to the Chingford Road site were being blocked.
Steve Yianni, L & Q Commercial Director, and Mike Johnson (Land Director) came under robust questioning from APPGG members, including Ian Lavery (MP for Wansbeck and long standing greyhound owner) and the recently knighted Mansfield MP Alan Meale.
Lavery asked whether L& Q were prepared to discuss former proposals to buy the site made by Greyhound Derby winning owner and millionaire businessman Bob Morton. Yianni explained to members that despite three meetings it was felt that the Morton plans were not acceptable on several levels and ‘primarily because the site was not for sale”.
He added: “We sought verification from leading property consultants that the [Morton] bid was undeliverable for three reasons; physical constraints on the type of housing proposed, planning constraints and a lack of due diligence.” Yianni also said that the Morton estimate to refurbish the stadium for racing at £6m was significantly too low, according to the same advice.
Mike Johnson from L&Q added that the independent report into the Morton proposal included work on the viability of greyhound racing at Walthamstow and also looked at the financial projections.
Alan Meale asked whether as a public funded company and charity, if a paid for report into greyhound was appropriate. The L & Q response, from Mike Johnson was that it was ‘part of due diligence in the commercial world’ and that ‘we needed to support our application to illustrate that the alternatives were not viable.”
Lavery urged those campaigning since the closure of the stadium in 2008 not to give up. He said: “Despite listening to L & Q and the insistence that it is not for sale. I think the door is still open. Everyone who has fought to bring the dogs back to Walthamstow has got to keep fighting.
“L & Q talk about the number of jobs that they will provide with the development but how they can that compete with the amount of jobs and the total effect on the community that returning greyhound racing back to Walthamstow could deliver? We know that greyhound racing worked at Walthamstow and could do again and we will support a bid to do just that.”
“I think they [L & Q representatives] were unduly negative and I was extremely disappointed by their evasiveness on some of the points I put to them regarding their purchase of the site and their evaluation of the true value of the site today.”
Joint APPGG Chairman Lord Bilston said:” When Walthamstow closed I was a terrible loss. Nothing came close to it in quality of stadia or the racing itself. We wanted to meet with L& Q to hear for ourselves the current status of the development plans and because we were so concerned that firm bids to bring greyhound racing back were being blocked.”
A decision on the current L & Q planning application is expected within a four month timeframe.