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Tonight’s the night…

… and as Rod Stewart sung in that very song, spread your wings and let me come inside.

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I bet that wasn’t the follow-up lyric you expected (and yes, it’s in the song), although regular readers of SW19 may disagree with that. But it’s a slight little distraction to this, the day of all days. This is undoubtedly the most important day since 2002, and probably since 1991 as well.

It’s a day that, let’s be honest here, many never thought would ever arrive. And I don’t mean in the way that it was last Wednesday/Thursday when you’re awaiting your holiday in seven days time.

I mean, ever. Those who have been fans since 1991 or before that will know the constant bullshit statements that Hammam came out with almost weekly. As we eventually found out, he never intended to move us back home. We all know what happened on 28/5/02, but since the AFCW era came to be, there’s always had that yeah-it-might-come attitude around.

By that, there’s a lot of talk about moving home but little actual action. Of course, that changed once the whole NPL project got formally announced, but even so – it’s still a bit breathtaking to finally get to this stage. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into this. Your editor has been reading more of the planning document this week, and other related issues, and it’s breathtakingly thorough.

I’m sure most of us will know more about flood plains, section 106s and transport plans than we ever believed we would. The part of the project termed a “football pitch” almost seems an afterthought.

And I think it’s designed to be very difficult for it to be rejected tonight, at least in actual planning terms. For instance, anything that can cause practical trouble is effectively shoved into an S106 and dealt with by professionals.

When it comes to approvals from statutory bodies, which apparently carry more weight than anything else, we’ve got those ticked off as well.

In a previous life, your editor worked for a couple of architect/engineering companies and this we-reject-this-oh-no-we-don’t is pretty de rigeur. Especially on second consultations, which are worth the time and effort when it comes to these sort of things.

So if we are going to get rejected tonight, it will be down to spite from the politicians. It shouldn’t be like that, and if they make their decision to the planning letter of the law, we should be OK.

The big unknown, and the big source of today’s anxiety, is what the nine (?) individuals on the committee think. That’s why (as last week’s update stated) I’m glad we’ve got the chance of appeal with professional planners who will take the politics out of it.

But again, I want tonight to be the big thumbs up, not a few more valuable months down the line.

There’s still a sizable level of mistrust with the local elected officials. Remember that LBM fucked up over the old PL site and its sporting covenant back in 1991, and there are still enough fans who side more with Hammam than those at Crown House.

Obviously, they’re not going to be wanting to be seen just rolling over tonight and giving us the keys already. They do “owe” us for 1991 alone, but of course it never works like that. Nor should it, because we can do without the charges of favouritism.

I’ll quickly mention Brentford here. IIRC, that was a genuinely controversial project for so many reasons, yet that got planning permission.

NPL has been (relatively) free of that sort of stuff. True, there’s the usual NIMBYism, and a couple of grandstanding local councillors (none of whom are anywhere near tonight’s procedings), but for a project this size it’s been largely quiet on that front.

We can’t take that for granted tonight, but I do believe people when they say LBM want this to happen. And while it’s tempting to say that they should be anyway, it’s better to have them onside than not.

Since the year dot, local authorities have always had their preferred projects. For example, they didn’t want a supermarket on old PL, so it didn’t happen. From all accounts, they’ve been helpful to us, and we’ve given them what they want in return.

With this in mind, it’s worth pointing out what to expect from tonight. It will be undeniably anxious, and excruciating as well. Not just tension, but in terms of how dull it will be.

Brentford’s planning application took about 3/4 hours to hear, although as stated earlier that was a particularly complex application. The OS seems to hint that you’d best take a toilet break when you can:

After the speeches and representations, the members of the Planning Committee will discuss the application. If necessary, the Chair will ask applicants or objectors to clarify any points. There is no formal time limit set for this part of the meeting, but the Chair will no doubt wish the discussion and questions to be very thorough.

You can see how this is going to go – two hours on whether the visiting team coach has to turn in 3-degrees more than it said on the initial planning application.

Obviously, we’re going to need to be on top of our brief, but the likes of Galliard and Peter Brett Associates are not exactly tinpot outfits.

I would expect – let alone hope – that those representing us tonight have seen and done planning committees many times before. They’d know what questions will be asked, how to answer them, and in Galliard’s case they have apartments around the Emirates.

And if you care to look at the case history of Ashburton Grove, that had far more objections than NPL ever had…

One final thing that is intruging about tonight, and TBH something that surprises me a little – we’re the first planning application on the agenda.

This isn’t a one-application meeting, there’s three more after we’re done and dusted. Not to mention the appeals bit and summary of current cases at the end.

Perhaps this isn’t going to be soul-destroyingly long after all? There will be some bones of contention, and some areas of outright anal retention, but maybe we’ll still be alive by the time the decision comes?

And again, you have to wonder if this meeting has been designed so it doesn’t drag on until Doomsday? The amount of S106s suggest that to be the case, and I expect a couple more to be added before this evening is out.

Tell you what though, if you’re the individual for 80 Melbourne Road in South Wimbledon, you’ve got a sodding long wait this evening…

So, that’s that then. Unless I have a breakdown brought on by nerves, this will be the last time I post anything before the decision is made. I’ll either be stuck on the ceiling tonight, or sitting in a corner muttering “democracy doesn’t work” in a disturbing tone of voice.