Protestors get a sporting chance

Greenlands Sports Village which will be the new home of AFC Fylde if plans are passed
Greenlands Sports Village which will be the new home of AFC Fylde if plans are passed

CAMPAIGNERS have won a significant battle against hugely controversial plans to construct a £10m sports complex in Wrea Green.

The applicants claim they have been “ambushed”.

And they have vowed to appeal immediately should it not be passed.

The complex, which will go before a development management committee meeting in St Margaret’s Church hall, St Leonard’s Road West, St Annes, next Wednesday, will include a new 2,500-capacity stadium for AFC Fylde and be used by the community.

It is the vision of Lytham businessman David Haythornthwaite and will be financed by the Haythornthwaite Sports Foundation (HSF), with some facilities free to use during the day.

But it has infuriated residents.

Wrea Green councillor Frank Andrews welcomed the recommendation, saying: “This is the ambition of one man over the rights of the village.

“I would hope the planning committee would support the officers’ recommendation.”

Objectors, which include the Wrea Green Action Gorup and parish council, say they will be plagued by traffic, noise and other elements that are not welcome to rural life if it goes ahead.

But Mr Haythornthwaite has accused some protestors of scaremongering and says the stadium will not be a huge complex.

Planning permission was recommended for refusal on a number of grounds including: Its scale, nature and location would lead to unacceptable urbanisation; the stadium is not justified in the area; activities would detract from the rural appearance; and that it fails to show how the large number of spectators that could be attracted to the football stadium could be accommodated at the site and on nearby roads, causing congestion and pedestrian safety.

The HSF said in a statement yesterday: “ We are simply astonished at the recommendation. It is hard to see why any local authority wouldn’t readily embrace the opportunity to have high quality community sports facilities of a type which are not currently available in the Fylde area but for which there is a clear need.

“Over the past eighteen months we have been working extremely closely with Fylde Borough Council planning officers regarding this development.

“Throughout the process, alongside discussion about the scheme’s multiple benefits, we have addressed all issues raised.

“These have included traffic impact, ecology and location. The application is supported by strong independent endorsement in relation to all these points.

“At the last minute officers have introduced two new issues, “community benefit” and “visual impact” which hitherto had been acknowledged and which are now cited as main reasons for refusal. It is difficult not to see this as an ambush.”

It added: “The community benefit is there for all to see but carrying the view of an action group that is not a majority nor representative of the full community (Wrea Green Action Group) has clearly taken priority over the appetite and need of the wider community in Wrea Green, and beyond.

“Greenlands will benefit all the people of South Fylde but particularly Kirkham, Wesham, Freckleton and Warton who currently have very poor sporting facilities, as do many of the local primary schools.

“We remain hopeful that members of the planning committee, charged with reviewing the application on April 4, have time to fully consider the strong and positive case for Greenlands – and vote in favour of its many beneficiaries – the people of the Fylde, its children and future generations.

“Greenlands will provide first class facilities for all the communities in the area not just the privileged few.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity and we will be pursuing an immediate appeal should the recommendation to refuse is upheld which, given the recent changes to planning law introduced just this week, we believe would be successful.”