After years of stalling, things are finally looking up for Grimsby Town Football Club who recently became one step closer to getting a new stadium.  Believe it or not, the existing stadium is actually in Cleethorpes – which is a useful bit of pub quiz trivia.

The planned new development includes a range of other new facilities such as housing, retail units and an ice rink.  But where will it get built?

This has been the subject of much recent controversy and the usual fanfare of ‘not in my back yard’.  However, to make an informed decision, the Council commissioned an agency to consider the alternative sites.  They came back with a report which duly considered these, each scored using a range of criteria (such as highways access and existing land use).  This was, on the whole, a good move as there’s a large amount of money at stake and local people had become suspicious about the true intentions of both Council and developer.

Trouble is, the evaluation isn’t very convincing – particularly as the top 11 choices came out within 3 points of each other.  The finely balanced alternatives draw attention to the way that they were ranked.

Unfortunately, we remain unconvinced about the scoring method in this case.  There is no mention of who was scoring – if it was done by consensus, just one expert or by a group of planners.  There are no weightings applied to the individual criteria scores and consequently we can see no consideration for public priorities and preferences.  It is somewhat ironic that the location of this community stadium seems to lack any sort of community involvement.

It is no wonder then, that when a decision was made, there were mixed views.

The Consultation Institute is adamant that consultors must demonstrate that they have a well-orchestrated option development process – not least to avoid judicial hot water.  There is no reason why planners should be exempt from this, particularly when there are wider impacts.

We’re so concerned that option development isn’t being taken seriously that we’re in the process of developing an online tool to help consultors on this journey.  Watch this space.