Plans to build an £18m stadium and retail development have been passed by national planners – with “one or two hurdles” still to overcome, according to its millionaire supporter.
Proposals to build a 6,000 capacity stadium for AFC Fylde, Aldi supermarket, petrol station, pub and hotel at Mill Farm in Wesham were given the go-ahead by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles’ National Planning Unit (NPU) on Monday.
The decision is a big step forward for the project, which its supporters hope is rubber-stamped by Fylde Council at a meeting in the new year.
AFC Fylde chairman David Haythornthwaite welcomed the announcement, but admitted some challenges remain before work can begin, including the recent construction of a helipad by one resident for the North West Air Ambulance (NWAA) at nearby Wesham House Farm.
He added: “There are still one or two hurdles to overcome, one of which is the legal challenge by a resident who has a house opposite regarding helicopter flights so we’ll have to overcome that before we can move forward.
“We understand this will be dealt with as a one-off item at Fylde Borough Council’s development management committee meeting in January.”
In a report to Fylde Council, planning officer Michael Atherton said the owner of Wesham House Farm felt the close proximity of the stadium could affect its safety operation as, due to the nature of an air ambulance service, there is no set time or frequency of operation.
He added if the base was used full-time, around 75 per cent of air ambulance helicopter flights could take off over the stadium.
Mr Atherton said: “Since consideration of the (Mill Farm) application by the committee in June, planning permission has been granted for the use of land at Wesham House Farm for the change of use of land for use as air ambulance base including formation of concrete take off pad, siting of a cabin for crew rest facility and siting of containerised fuel storage facility for use by the North West Air Ambulance.
“The owner of Wesham House Farm considers that the NWAA base will have a material impact on the operation of the proposed stadium development which is a “very significant change in circumstances” since the resolution of the committee to approve the Mill Farm development was made.”
The NWAA confirmed it was aware of the new ambulance development at Wesham House Farm, but today said it was likely to remain at its current base on Blackpool Airport “for the foreseeable future.”
Fiona Morris, interim charity chief executive at the NWAA said: “Back in September, when Blackpool Airport announced that it was set to close, we did explore a number of options for our Blackpool-based helicopter.
“However, as the airport remained open, we made the decision to stay at this location (Blackpool Airport) for the foreseeable future.”
Plans for the Fleetwood Road-based project were provisionally agreed by councillors earlier this year.
The project will be reviewed again by Fylde Council on January 7 at Fylde Town Hall in St Annes.
Today, Wesham Coun Alan Clayton said he supported AFC Fylde’s ambition, but admitted some concerns remained about the project.
He added: “When the application came round the first time I expressed concerns about the impact on the traffic element of it.
“I have always said from the beginning I am in support of AFC Fylde.
“The stadium is another matter really.
“When you look at the impact on traffic in the area because of the new housing developments in Wesham and Kirkham it is going to be congested.”