It was obvious from the moment Birmingham planning committee refused to approve a £32 million expansion of the Edgbaston cricket ground that Warwickshire County Cricket Club would have to compromise.
The unanswered question was not whether the club could do enough to persuade local residents and community groups to support the scheme – that was never likely – but whether any changes that might be made could convince the planning committee to change its mind.
For all of the middle class clout and huffing and puffing about the glare from floodlights and additional traffic on the Pershore Road, club officials know that there are really only 15 people that matter – the members of the planning committee.
Changes proposed are minimal, a small reduction in hotel and leisure space, and there has been no attempt to address other issues such as possible glare from floodlighting, the size of the new stands and pavilion and the amount of extra traffic likely to be generated on the Pershore Road from the new houses and flats which the club wants to build.
Residents groups were quick to condemn this as a mere gesture, even going so far as to accuse the club’s chief executive of treating local people with contempt. Councillors for Edgbaston took a similar view, adding that the club might as well not have bothered.
Both sides repeated an old refrain, accusing the club of failing to consult with the people most likely to be affected by the ground expansion plan. While the club is now offering to set up a regular community liaison group, something to be welcomed, the revised planning application appears to have been put together with no consultation at all between the club and residents.
If the cricket club does manage to get planning permission for the improvements it insists are necessary to retain Test match cricket at Edgbaston, it will be in spite of rather than because of the efforts it has made to address the concerns of people living close to the ground.
Planning committee members face one of the most difficult decisions to come before them for years.
It is unthinkable that Birmingham should lose Test match cricket, not just for the income generated for the local economy but also for the favourable publicity international games bring to the city.
Equally, it is quite wrong that a positive decision should be steamrollered through with no notice being taken of community concerns.
The club has shown it is willing to compromise, albeit a tiny move, but it is likely that further changes will be necessary before planning permission is granted.