The amount of lobbying for Brighton and Hove Albion's new stadium was almost without precedent, says the former head of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Hazel McKay told the public inquiry into the project the Yes Campaign had been very hard hitting and opponents had been unable to mobilise similar influence.

She said the "relentless" advertising campaign, media coverage and Brighton and Hove City Council's backing for the scheme had painted a false picture of the level of support for the stadium at Falmer.

She said the council-sponsored referendum in 1999 did not indicate public backing for the stadium was as widespread as claimed.

She said: "Twenty-two thousand people voted against it and that, of course, is enough to fill the football stadium."

She said the amount of lobbying was "almost without precedent" for a planning application and the council was so committed to the scheme "proper scrutiny" had not been possible.

Ms McKay's evidence, among the last to be heard during the inquiry, was overshadowed by the club's bid to adjourn the hearing for three months.

Planning inspector John Collyer agreed to the delay but insisted on a written assurance from the club there would be no more hold-ups.

The club still have to resolve their differences with the University of Brighton, which owns about one-third of the site, and wants strict legal safeguards to ensure its day-to-day activities are not harmed.

Sport England witness Jack Wilkinson said the project was important to the sporting life of the entire South-East.

He said the scheme would have a minor impact on the Sussex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty.

He said there was a high level of support for the project and better sports facilities were crucial for the social and economic well being of Brighton and Hove.

The inquiry will end next week after closing submissions by the club, council and opponents.

It will reconvene in late September for two weeks to discuss the coach park, essential to the stadium's success, and new access to Village Way.

Mr Collyer is expected to send his report to the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott shortly afterwards.

Friday June 6, 2003