There has been considerable speculation today about the possible demolition of the West Stand at The Hive and of the floodlights. Barnet FC wishes to put the minds of its supporters at rest by stating that the club intends to lodge an appeal against the decision that has prompted this speculation and furthermore should the appeal go against The Hive there are simple remedies available in terms of restructuring the stand and the floodlights that in no way compromise the future of the club.
As you will be aware Barnet FC recently relocated from Underhill and is a tenant of The Hive and it is The Hive that intends to appeal against the decision of Harrow Council to refuse planning permission to increase the height of their floodlights and new West Stand.
The Hive West Stand was increased in height when it was discovered that a few hundred spectators on the East Stand opposite, for which The Hive already had approval, had to be relocated in order to meet new guidelines on spectator sight lines. The Council were aware of this change and officers supported this minor amendment at a recent planning meeting.
The Hive also had planning permission in 2008 for new floodlights but once they realised these may cause an issue for those close to the site as the glare from the lights would have been approximately at the level of the first floor windows of the adjacent houses a remedy was sought.
Acting as a good neighbour and in order to lessen this problem, they decided to spend an extra £30,000 and increase the height of the floodlight masts by 10m so that they can be aimed down by an angle greater than 70 degrees in line with ILP Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Obtrusive Light GN01:2011. This would cause less light spillage to adjoining properties.
To provide some background it is important to note that there has been permission to develop the site as a stadium for some five years and the changes do not in any way alter the circa 5,200 capacity of the stadium. At every stage of the building process the Council have been kept aware of progress and the feedback received was that there were no significant areas of concern.
The Council has had three incarnations in the last five months alone. At the start of the year it was Labour led, then Independent Labour led and is now Conservative led and during this period of political instability it has been the case that the progress of the planning permission process has been continually delayed and has become painfully slow.
The original application was due to be heard in June but then Council delays and deferrals meant a long wait until September before the planning was eventually heard. Unfortunately, due to the need for the stadium to be ready for the start of the season the building programme got ahead of the planning approvals process but with general support for the minor changes, it was felt acceptable for the building programme continue; the only issue was for further information on the lighting.
The appeal will be heard by an independent inspector who will evaluate the application by The Hive and make a judgement as to whether the club has acted in a fair and reasonable manner, or not. We are confident that the behaviour and intentions throughout were exemplary.
Should the judgement go against The Hive with regard to the height of the stand it is a relatively straight-forward operation with such a modular structure to alter its dimensions as is the lowering of the floodlights, although we cannot understand why anyone would be so keen to make matters worse for residents.
It is difficult to see who the beneficiary is in this scenario we now find ourselves in. The Hive site is operated along non-profit lines and should the operating costs escalate it will be necessary to pass on these costs to the many and varied groups in the community that currently enjoy the facility.
There have been considerable efforts made to ensure that The Hive is an affordable facility for the local community. For example, pitch hire is some 30% lower than comparable local commercial facilities and gym memberships are available to local residents from as little as £20 per month.
The Hive enjoys good relations with the bulk of those groups that represent the local community and we are confident that it will continue to be seen as a significant asset to the local area.