Aylsham plan for 250 homes and 10 football pitches recommended for approval

A major homes and football development on the edge of Aylsham is being recommended for approval by planners - because the sporting gains and public support justify breaking policy.

Under the project 250 homes, nearly a third of them affordable, 10 pitches and a pavilion would be built on farmland off the Cawston Rod, along with �500,000 to kick start the building of the sporting facilities.

Youngs Farms, run by the family of England rugby star Ben Youngs, are behind the scheme at Woodgate Farm which they say will take 50 months to deliver in four phases starting in early 2013.

Broadland District Council planning will debate the controversial plans on Wednesday which hinge on whether the community benefit justifies building on land outside the town development area.

Officials say it does, and that community support was also an important factor - with 261 people writing to the council backing it, including the Football Association, against 34 objecting.

The council's conservation officer says the land is an inappropriate location for a large project which would be an 'unconnected intrusion into what is currently open countryside' as would the 10 15m-tall floodlight columns even when unlit.

But the overall appraisal recommends approval so long as there are assurances over the remaining funding and delivery of the community facilities.

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Supporters say expansion of the town into farmland is inevitable so it is best to take advantage of the sporting gains on offer, which will also help the women's football team, cricket club youth coaching and Scout group, as well as providing affordable homes to help young people live in the area.

Opponents however say the site is out on a limb, and not as well located as another rival plan at Sir Williams Lane - refused by planners and now subject to an appeal - which would have had benefits for the school and been closer to the main town. Councillors in June however said its benefits were not enough to warrant approval.

Objectors also query the need for 10 pitches, when Manchester United only has eight training pitches at Old Trafford, and question the long-term financing of the sporting complex.

The council's appraisal adds there was is a possibility of grant funding for the sports facilities not succeeding but that the applicants plan to underwrite the costs.

Archaeologists have surveyed the Youngs site and uncovered evidence of Paleolithic, later prehistoric, Roman, and medieval activity and were keen to dig the site as part of the development, councillors will also be told.