Barnet FC's stadium plans should be called in for a public inquiry, writes SIR SYDNEY CHAPMAN, the MP for Chipping Barnet:

Local issues are the very stuff of politics in a truly democratic society.

The public meeting I instigated the other Friday underlined this. I called it to hear views about the latest threat to our Green Belt: Barnet FC's application to build a new 10,000-capacity stadium on a further 12.8 acres of public open space south of the existing Underhill stadium.

I also wanted to be personally accountable to my constituents for my decision to oppose the proposals.

Over 300 people turned out on a wet and windy evening.

They seemed to be equally divided between residents (understandably mostly those locally affected) and football supporters (understandably mostly those concerned about the future of our local club).

My own position can be stated simply. For the whole of my political life, I have championed the protection of our Green Belts areas around our major cities designed to prevent urban sprawl over all of England's green and pleasant land.

Although I desperately want our local football team to survive and prosper, I cannot in all conscience change my principles for local expedience by courting wider public support there are far more football supporters than local residents who would be adversely affected.

At the meeting, the main argument of those supporting the proposed new stadium centred on the view that development was the only way to ensure the club's survival.

Supporters also thought that residents were guilty of the "not in my back yard" syndrome in wanting to keep the open space instead of thinking about the wider community interest.

Residents, however, questioned the need for a 10,000-capacity stadium, with all its ancillary accommodation, when the average attendance would hardly fill one-fifth of the seats.

They felt there was a hidden agenda: perhaps another club sharing the ground and its facilities, and these being used on many more occasions.

I reckon this is not the last time I shall be writing on this matter in the coming months. More certainly, the issues involved must be aired publicly.

I do not know whether Barnet councillors will give planning permission or not. On past form they should not, as they have been rigorous upholders of Green Belt policy.

But even if they did, the Secretary of State must surely call in the application for a public inquiry, as such a development would be a significant departure from our borough's unitary development plan.