|Belle Vue racetrack to be demolished
Bitter battle as plan to build houses goes through
The first purpose built Greyhound track in the country is to be demolished and replaced by a housing estate.
Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium, Manchester, described as the first purpose built Greyhound track in the country, is to be knocked down and replaced by houses. In recent years it has hosted both Greyhound racing and Stock Car racing events.
Plans were submitted last year by the housing developer Countryside Properties, alongside a company called SCP Investments, to build nearly 250 homes on the site.
The plan is to build 167 two, three and four bedroom houses and 80 one and two bedroom apartments. It is hoped the development will be completed by next year.
Belle Vue hosted the first modern greyhound race in 1926, by 1945 around 50 million people used to watch the sport. Audiences now are below 2 million according to recent figures.
It means that there will be no Greyhound racing tracks left in the North West of England. There are also no Greyhound tracks in London following the closure of the Wimbledon Greyhound track in 2017. With the closure of Belle Vue it will leave the number of remaining tracks in the UK at 20.
The proposed closure of the site has seen a bitter battle between opponents and supporters of Greyhound racing.
It was revealed by the application report that there were 756 letters in support of the proposal to knock the stadium down. With many of them deriding Greyhound racing as â€˜cruelâ€™ and that â€˜there is no place for Greyhound racing anymore.â€™
Activists have been campaigning for the stadium to close for many years and they have staged protests on race days. At a meeting of the All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) there were calls for the sport to be banned.
Manchester Council said that animal welfare considerations played no part in the decision and that it was made on planning grounds alone.
Officers concluded that, â€˜the loss of the facility is outweighed by the provision of a good quality residential development that provides a wide range of new accommodation for the residents of Manchester.â€™
Councillor Gavin White said, â€˜Whilst it is sad to lose a historic sporting venue, we do have a major housing crisis in the city and welcome the affordable housing provision within the scheme.â€™
There were cheers and applause from the public gallery of the town hall chamber when the plans were approved.
The report from the planning officer said, â€˜Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium brings nothing positive to the area. Gambling facilities do not help the well-being of people living in an already deprived area and may only drive them into debt.
â€˜A detailed assessment has been made in respect of the harmful aspects of the material considerations in this case, mainly the loss of the existing local nonstatutory heritage site, the loss of employment opportunities at the existing site and the potential highway impacts from additional congestion created by the proposed residential development.
â€˜However, on balance, this level of harm is considered to be outweighed by the benefits the proposed development would bring, in relation to the provision of good quality affordable residential accommodation, an improvement to the overall appearance of the site, the betterment to the ecological value of the site, and the reduction in the noise currently generated by the existing uses to the benefit of existing residents living around the site.â€™
Simon Walmsley, chairman of Friends of Belle Vue Stadium, a group who have been campaigning to save the facility, had told the meeting, â€˜We have all attended both sports [greyhound and stock car racing] over varying numbers of decades.
â€˜We are unashamed to say these are both working class sports.
â€˜Manchester has a global reputation for being diverse and of rich heritage in culture, music and sport.
â€˜This is not the first greyhound stadium in the country but the last in Manchester and indeed the north west.
â€˜If this closes you take away two sports from the area for good and this surely goes against the rights of those two groups of working class supporters.
â€˜You cannot simply shut down a sporting venue that has existed since 1926 and that is surrounded by leisure and sporting facilities - and replace it with housing. The two do not belong together.â€™
Mark Bird, Managing Director of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), said in a statement, â€˜This is obviously a sad decision given both the historic legacy of Belle Vue as a stadium and also its continued popularity as a track.
â€˜As we have seen elsewhere in recent years, the land on which some greyhound stadia are housed offers developers prime residential and commercial opportunities which come with huge financial gain.
â€˜Despite this, the sport is welcoming the potential of two new tracks in the near future as the sport continues to thrive in terms of public interest and popularity.
â€˜We will be working alongside the staff, trainers and kennel staff at the stadium to ensure that, as and when it closes, the welfare of those dogs who currently race there is given the highest priority.â€™
A tweet from the Save the Belle Vue stadium group said, â€˜Sombre News from the Planning Meeting... Sadly, as we predicted the decision by the Planning Committee was unanimously in favour of the applicantâ€™s development. This is not the end. Far from it. After some reflection we will announce our next move. Keep the faith!â€™
Peter Tooher, from Nexus planning, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said the benefit housing would bring â€˜outweighed any issues or concerns.â€™
He said, â€˜Whilst the application has received a large number of comments we are not aware of overwhelming objections from local residents, and indeed some have written in support.â€™
Recent figures from the GBGB revealed that around 1,000 Greyhounds were put to sleep last year.