Contested Weldon homes plan ‘could unlock £500,000 of sports funding’ for borough

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A controversial planning application for 27 homes on a football pitch at the heart of Weldon has been resubmitted to planners - and developers say if it is passed, it could unlock £500,000 of sports funding for the borough.

The application at 100-year-old Weldon United FC was turned down by Corby Council earlier this summer but now Mulberry Developments have submitted a new blueprint which they claim addresses the concerns raised by the community.

It is backed by Sport England, Corby Athletic Club and WUFC, which says that if it is not given the go-ahead their club is unlikely to survive.

The new application is for 27 two, three and four bedroom houses at the site in Oundle Road and Mulberry developments say it rebuts the reasons for previous refusal by the council which included housing density, the loss of green space and the loss of parking for residents of an adjacent mobile home park.

But the application has already seen concerns raised by organisations including Northants County Council, Weldon Parish Council and more than a dozen members of the public.

The homes are to be built on the privately-owned site of the WUFC pitch and derelict changing facilities and Mulberry say they would have ‘no impact’ on the grassed area around the football pitch, designated as village green.

Mulberry Developments say that, should the development be granted permission, local residents will still enjoy the use of this space plus an additional third of an acre, improved footpath network and the upgrade of the existing play area adjoining the site.

In line with the existing planning policy requirements, Mulberry Developments would make a financial contribution to facilitate the relocation of WUFC.

The club has already identified a new home at Corby Athletics Stadium at Rockingham Triangle. This would unlock funding from Sport England and Corby Borough Council of nearly £500,000 for an improved facility at the stadium,

This investment will fund a new club room, accessible sports facilities and new amenities including changing rooms, new sporting equipment and energy efficient flood lights.

WUFC secretary Kim Bullock said: “Our club’s needs outgrew the deteriorating site at Oundle Road a long time ago and we have been working on the relocation of WUFC now for well over a decade. It has been a process where we have regularly been misrepresented, including during the gathering of objections for the proposed redevelopment.

“As a club, we privately lease this land - a single pitch and an all but derelict clubhouse. For some time now it has not been viable to play modern competitive football there due to the unsuitability of the clubhouse. Over the years we have not been able to find any other suitable sites in the village so we have had to widen our search in order to survive.”

“Due to the unsuitability of Oundle Road we organised a sub-lease for use of the facilities at Corby Athletics Club and, along with a couple of our associated youth teams who initially used Oundle Road, now use Corby Athletics Club for the majority of our games.

“Three seasons of running two facilities, neither of which can currently fully service our club’s needs has put significant pressure on the club’s resources and we have therefore made the difficult decision to take a year out of competitive adult football in an attempt to restructure our club.

“If the relocation is not secured as a result of this application, the club is unlikely to survive and Corby Athletics Club and the wider community will not be able to benefit from Sport England matched funding.”

Corby Athletic Club chairman Ian Merriman said: “The team of volunteers at our club have recently secured the long term future of the athletic stadium and its facilities and in partnership with Corby Borough Council have developed exciting plans to open up the facility to the wider community. The athletics club have in excess of 250 athletes at the site and are expanding membership numbers from age eight upwards.

“In addition to this we have been selected as the county site to accommodate and support disabled athletics, we are the home to two local triathlon clubs as well as our partnership with our WUFC colleagues. The new facilities/club room will enable us to support the local community further by offering state of the art social and sporting facilities for all age groups. The stadium alone this season has had over 70 bookings from local schools, sports clubs and private bookings. Working hand in hand with the council we look forward to creating further opportunities for the local community to use the facilities at the site.”

Residential director at Mulberry Developments Steve Mitchell said: “We have been working in partnership with Weldon United for six years and have remained committed in assisting the club relocate to an improved facility and in turn securing the future of the 100 year old football club and enabling them to progress with their aspirations in the football league. The revised proposal has been fully informed and addresses the reasons for a previous refusal.”