Campaigners fighting against a new football training facility have lost their battle after a planning committee decided to give the controversial scheme the go-ahead.
Despite more than 100 letters of objection from people living in the Redwell area of Wellingborough, a 1,000-strong petition and a number of passionate pleas, the new 3G sports pitch at the Redwell Leisure Centre was approved at Wellingborough Council last night (Wednesday).
Campaigners say the Football Foundation part-funded facility would cause noise and light pollution, increase parking congestion in the area, could cause health risks and lead to a loss of open space.
The facility is being built to increase the inadequate football facilities in the borough.
The decision came down to the wire as nine councillors were on the committee and five voted for the plans and four voted against.
Parents, teachers, teenagers, Wellingborough Town Cricket Club chairman and a former scout leader all spoke out against the facility which will be built on a field attached to the Redwell Leisure Centre off Barnwell Road and owned by Wellingborough Council.
Former scout leader Alec Ashton said the field was a hub of activity for all ages.
He said: “The sports field has been used by the community since it was developed.
“It is used by the scouts and is vital to them as an amenity.
“Where will the young people go if the development goes ahead?”
Teenager Paul Piggott, who lives in Gleneagles, said the club was regularly used by the Redwell runners group and a popular place for local youngsters to learn to ride their bike.
The facility will be 106m x 70m and will have six 15m high 2kw floodlights.
It is proposed to be available for hire all day and into the evening hours.
Speaking in favour of the facility, president of Wellingborough Town Football Club Lawrie Owens said the pitch was much needed in the town.
A statement read out from Northamptonshire FA said if the facility was not built then football teams would have to travel to neighbouring boroughs to train and ‘there is no hiding our offer to residents will be less than that of our neighbours.’
The loss of the field will now mean that Wellingborough Town Cricket Club’s third team will now have to travel outside of the county to play its matches.
Chairman Clive Farrar, whose club has been maintaining a cricket pitch on the field, said the club had not been consulted before the scheme was first muted.
He said: “The third team is now having to play its games 30 to 40 minutes away, with involves additional costs in travel and hire.”
Campaigners also spoke about the unproven toxic effects of the rubber crumb used to create the artificial grass on the pitch.
Voting against it, Cllr Andrew Scarborough said the scheme would be detrimental to residents in the area and that it was against planning policy to create one sports facility while losing another.
Chairman of the planning committee Cllr Peter Morrall, who voted to approve the scheme, said he did feel that the new pitch was going to affect residents and was sorry about the loss of a cricket pitch, but the site was always going to change and the facility was desperately needed.
The councillors who voted to approve the scheme were all from the ruling conservative party and were Cllr Martin Griffith, Cllr Barry Graves, Cllr Thomas Lloyd, Cllr Laura Stevenson and Cllr Peter Morrall.
Councillors who voted against were Cllr Maguire, Cllr Andrew Scarborough, Cllr Graham Lawman and Cllr Martyn York.
The application has been approved with 12 conditions including one to look at using a cork alternative rather than the rubber crumb.
The costs of building the pitch are about £662,000 with the borough council proposing to put in £300,000. A vote will take place at the resources council meeting being held on June 12 about whether to approve the funds.
In a press release issued after the meeting, council leader Martin Griffiths said: “We heard many sensible and well-thought through comments from residents who live near to the leisure centre last night.
“I completely understand why they have reservations about the changes being made to the pitch, but in the end there were no sound planning reasons for refusing it.
“We hope that this new pitch will be something which is appreciated by our local footballers, both now and for future generations of footballers to come, and will put us on a par with other towns in the area in terms of the facilities provided.”
To read the full press release from Wellingborough Council, click here