Wed, 23 May 2018
THEY say football is a game of two halves – but it was a tale of two planning applications when councillors met to discuss new proposals for Newbury FC’s Faraday Road ground last week.
The first application – from the Newbury Community Football Group – is to replace the current grass football pitch with four artificial 3G ones, while the other seeks permission for a new stand, changing rooms, a café area and 43 car parking spaces.
However, the two applications could not be considered together at a Newbury Town Council meeting last week as the latter has yet to be validated by West Berkshire Council’s planning team.
And that is what Conservative councillor Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill) described as a “dilemma” – a view that was also shared by his colleagues.
During an impassioned speech, AFC Newbury chairman Lee McDougall told councillors that “our purpose is to maintain, protect and enhance football facilities within the Newbury area”.
He added: “I’ve been involved with children’s football in Newbury for many years, so we know first-hand the lack of pitches for the kids to play every Sunday.
“We have 350 children from Newbury that train every week and, believe me, it is almost impossible to find a venue to train.
“The Football Association did a survey in West Berkshire quite recently and identified there is a shortage of around five full-size 3G pitches within West Berkshire based on the demand they see from teams registered there and the facilities they see in Newbury.
“There is only one 3G pitch and that is at Park House School.
“Also we conducted a survey last year right across all the footballing community groups.
“Ninety-one per cent of respondents said that they were dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of both the 3G and grass pitches in Newbury.”
The plans have been submitted by Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG), a voluntary not-for-profit organisation.
NCFG’s Paul Morgan said the group wants to rejuvenate and expand the existing ground and provide somewhere for people to play football
He added: “There is no change of use and no change of location. We are confident we can provide a facility that everybody can be proud of.”
Mr Morgan then quoted an extract from West Berkshire Council’s Core Strategy which states that “developments resulting in the loss of green infrastructure or harm to its use or enjoyment by the public shall not be permitted”.
Judith Bunting, who stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Newbury in the 2015 General Election, said: “I am speaking here as a supporter, as someone who used to have sporting children and saw the benefit they got from a good community football group.”
She added: “Football is an indisputable part of English culture and we should be supporting this application for that reason, but also it is good for our children in many other ways.”
However, Tony Stretton (Con, Clay Hill) said: “It is unfortunate that the two applications are not here.
“I cannot see myself accepting one without seeing the other. Both need to meet.”
Council leader Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) agreed, saying: “I was taken aback that this application only deals with the ground.
“A good plan is only good when you see the complete detail and, as we don’t have that, I won’t be supporting this.”
However, Lib Dem Elizabeth O’Keefe (Victoria) proposed that the council supports the scheme.
Seconding the proposal, fellow Lib Dem Jo Day (Northcroft) said: “We as Newbury town councillors are here to protect what is good and try and support improvements for the people of Newbury.
“I think this is an excellent scheme, it is well thought out.
“At this stage I believe we should be supporting this project.”
Mr Stretton also raised concerns about a potential increase in traffic and parking that the increase from one pitch to four would bring.
The three Liberal Democrats in attendance all voted in favour, while four Conservatives voted against and three abstained.
The final decision will be made by West Berkshire Council.