Planning permission sought for former Rye House speedway site

Politics / Sat 13th Apr 2024 at 06:08am

DEVELOPERS responsible for a sports facility extended without proper planning permission have asked a council whether they can keep their changes reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Rye House Group has told East Herts Council it cannot revive a former speedway track next to the building near Hoddesdon.

The firm asked for permission to tear up the track, build a gym and extend a gymnastics building as part of a 2021 planning application, which the authority refused in September 2023.

But the track has been removed and an extension to the Hertfordshire Gymnastics Club (HGC) building – including a terrace – is complete.

In a fresh application, Rye House Group has asked for permission to keep the extension – to the building which was once the main speedway spectator stand.

The company’s team acknowledged the council has put together a planning enforcement file for “works not in accordance with planning consent”.

Documents handed to decision-makers read: “Conversations with the planning enforcement officer for East Herts Council have been ongoing to ensure that all matters arising from the enforcement issue are addressed to the council’s satisfaction.

“These discussions have informed the planning application.”

Developers secured permission to turn the spectator stands into gymnasiums in 2020 – after originally pressing ahead without asking East Herts Council beforehand.

They said HGC moved into the former spectator stand “to expand to meet the unprecedented demand for their services”.

It houses “competition-level facilities”.

The application reads: “With the works that have already been lawfully undertaken on the site by Rye House Group and the decisions that have already been made by the local planning authority, a revival of speedway would now not sit safely with the existing site uses.”

Developers added: “It was clear that there had been no investment in maintaining or upgrading the stadium and its facilities for a number of years, and that a significant financial input would be required to improve the existing stands and facilities.

“After a forensic examination of the accounts and the future potential position of speedway as a viable sport, and with the dire financial status of Carter and Bailey Limited at the time of their acquisition, a decision was made by Rye House Group that continued use of the site as a speedway track would not be viable and an alternative use needed to be found in order to secure both the financial future and sports and leisure use of the site for the community.”

The planning application does not affect the next-door Rye House Kart Raceway, where seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, from Stevenage, launched his career.

Objectors from as far away as the West Midlands and Norfolk have written to East Herts Council with objections.

One objector from Bedford wrote: “How can they get away with ripping up a perfectly fine speedway track which was loved by thousands of fans?”

Another, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, said: “This application attempts to seek approval for the vandalisation of what was, and still could be a valuable community asset.

“Small stadiums which bring people of all ages together to watch exciting sporting entertainment are being gobbled up by greedy developers for profit.”

A third from Billericay in Essex said she would have to drive to Oxford Stadium to watch speedway – a 91-mile trip – while a fourth from the Diss area of Norfolk accused the firm of having “destroyed a much-loved community asset”.

An East Herts Council spokesperson has previously said: “We are aware of numerous planning breaches on the site, and these are under active investigation.

“We can confirm the track has been removed, but the council is currently assessing options in resolving the breaches on the site.”

The authority is tasked with ruling on the application, which has the reference code 3/24/0477/FUL and is available to view online: https://publicaccess.eastherts.gov.uk/

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6 Comments for Planning permission sought for former Rye House speedway site:

Barry Pettitt
2024-04-13 09:37:24

Sets a precedent if the council allow them to keep the existing buildings which were put up without planning permission.

2024-04-13 17:17:00

Yes it tells anyone else in the area they can do as they please. Bottom line is planning law is in place to keep order. If the council allow developers to walk all over them it sends out a message that they are weak and nobody should worry about restrictions when developing in the area. I understand the speedway track was of local and national historic value.

2024-04-13 18:22:52

The place was a complete dump and unprofitable before it closed. Now the owners want to create something nice with sports facilities etc. and people are complaining. The council are there for the wider good and the benefit of the local people. They should work with the owners and encourage them to improve the site.

2024-04-13 21:48:00

As a former Rye House Speedway supporter, I was saddened when the former promoter, Len Silver, gave it up and moved to Sittingbourne Speedway. Unfortunately, he sold it to a company that expected too much for too little work, they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. The new company decided to move Rye House to the top league, the Premiership, paying top wages to the riders. Previously, Rye House was always a training track with one or two teams operating in two of the lower leagues. The objective was to train riders and give them experience in the lower leagues so they could graduate into the Premiership. The new company did not invest in the facilities, the car park was an embarrassment, and I often wondered which pothole I could park in. The tills/gates were always late to open. I once spoke to one of the new owners; I said, “You had a good gate last week; there must have been 4,000 people here” he replied, “More like 1,800; we need 4,000 people to break even. I was at a loss as to where they could park and where they would sit. The new owners ripped out the seating in one stand, leaving just the concrete to sit on. The main stadium was accessed by climbing up scaffolding, I would think the stadium insurance company would have had nightmares about health and safety. The P.A. was a muffled whisper at parts of the track. The only investment was to the riders, the pits were upgraded. At one point, Rye House became a laughingstock. The new management decided to run a doubleheader, which meant that two opposing teams would race against two different Rye House teams on the track. The pits must have been a nightmare, with 14 riders from the opposition teams plus the riders for Rye House. A doubleheader had been done before under Len Silver, but he was a former rider and knew how much water to add to the track. Rye House Speedway had the luxury of being in a relatively dry part of the country, and the track was generally “slick”. When it came to the second opposition meeting (Eastbourne), after two races, the referee abandoned the meeting as no one could see because of the dust caused by not enough water within the surface of the track. Four riders started, but only three passed the referee after one lap; the referee could not see where the other rider fell, so he could not stop the race. Other riders might have run the fallen rider over. The new company were forced to pay Eastbourne supporters their money back. I told one of the new owners, “You've made Rye House Speedway a laughingstock by not putting enough water down.” He replied, “We didn’t know how much to put down.” I returned with, “Len Silver is sitting in the stands; you could have asked him”. He went sheepishly away. I bet other promoters would love to have the Rye House site at the moment, as so many meetings are being cancelled because of a waterlogged track. At many of the race meetings, I sat next to supporters from London. They were former Speedway supporters, and their tracks had been swallowed up for housing: Wimbledon, West Ham, White City, Romford, and Arena Essex, to name a few. I myself was a Hackney supporter and followed Len Silver to Rye House. Rye House was the closest Speedway track to the capital; with enough local and London advertising, it could, and I believe still can, be a great Speedway track. If the council allows the new development to stay as it is, it is condoning the destruction of history. South Staffordshire Council has ordered the Crooked House to be rebuilt after developers knocked it down, so why can the Hertfordshire Council not do the same? What other development will Hertfordshire Council turn a blind eye to?

2024-04-13 22:03:07

Speedway is as close to death as close to death as any sport could ever come. It just doesn’t appeal to enough people any more. Toward the end of its last period on Sky it was attracting less than 30,000 viewers nationwide, and the live crowds were dwindling rapidly. It’s unreasonable to expect owners of ex-speedway stadiums to somehow preserve them based on little more than nostalgia. There comes a time when all hope is lost and it’s time to stop CPR.

Kevin M
2024-04-14 14:47:03

Actually Oxford stadium is full every week and they now ride in all three leagues such is the demand. Birmingham have seen record crowds already this season, Poole is packed every week, as is Leicester, Sheffield and Ipswich. A new streaming company is doing rather well from televising it. As a commercial entity speedway is 100% back and anyone who states otherwise probably has an unhealthy interest in property development at any cost to the communities they happily destroy. How much money do you need huh?

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