A football club has come up against some unlikely opposition this season... its own local council.

Councillors launched a determined defence against Downham Town FC's attempts to upgrade its ground, complaining about the noise that would be generated by extra fans.

They also objected to the 'garish' colour of the proposed new stand, which the club wants to match the team's red strip.

The football club unveiled the improvements scheme after being promoted to the region's top league last season, in order to meet the Football Association's requirements for their new division.

Eastern Daily Press: Downham Market's stands full of people during a home gameDownham Market's stands full of people during a home game (Image: Downham Town FC)

But Downham Town Council (DTC) lodged an objection to the plans, to revamp the team dug-outs and stand, increasing its seating capacity from 50 to 100.

The councillors' opposition has gone down badly with many in the town who say they should be more supportive of their local team.

And members of West Norfolk Council (WNC) - the planning authority which made the final decision to allow the revamp to go ahead - have also cried foul at DTC's objections and suggested its members should undergo extra training sessions before judging future applications.

Eastern Daily Press: A visualisation of what the revamped stand would look likeA visualisation of what the revamped stand would look like (Image: Downham Market FC)


Downham Town FC, which has been playing in the town since 1881, submitted plans to expand its facilities at the Memorial Playing Field off Lynn Road in February.

The club said that following the men's first team's promotion to the Thurlow Nunn League - the top regional division - they are required to increase the capacity of their seated covered area to 100 people in order to meet FA requirements.

Its dugouts were also due to be expanded.

George Dickson, club secretary, warned that if the plans were rejected, it could put the club at financial risk due to having to pay to play at larger grounds nearby.

Eastern Daily Press: Members of Downham Town FC's men's first teamMembers of Downham Town FC's men's first team (Image: Downham Town FC)

It comes at a time when the club is on the up, following its promotion last season.

The side currently sit at seventh in the league and this week reached the final of the Norfolk Senior Cup, defeating Watton 3-0 in the semi-final - although the game was marred by a long delay while a Downham player was treated for a serious leg injury.Eastern Daily Press: Charlie Pyatt, deputy mayor of Downham Market town councilCharlie Pyatt, deputy mayor of Downham Market town council (Image: Graham Spark/ DMTC)


But the club's progress hardly seems to have thrilled the local council.

At a meeting in March, Downham Town councillors railed against the application.

They made several complaints about the plans, arguing the stand would "overshadow" the view of nearby residents.

It was argued that its red colour would harm the visual appearance of the area.

Eastern Daily Press: The existing stand at Downham Town FC's pitch on the Memorial Playing Field off Lynn RoadThe existing stand at Downham Town FC's pitch on the Memorial Playing Field off Lynn Road (Image: WNC)

Other issues included more noise and traffic problems from the increased crowds, despite the club's last 14 home matches only getting an average turnout of 148 fans.

Charlie Pyatt, deputy mayor, described it as "garish in colour" and asked for it to be toned down to a muted grey or green.

Councillor Jacqueline Westrop said while no one who was against the football club itself, the application did not "look competent" and that the changes could "worsen" the situation at the playing field.

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Jacqueline WestropCouncillor Jacqueline Westrop (Image: Downham Market Rotary)

However, the opposition was not shared by the wider public, with 55 people writing letters of support to WNC.

People questioned Downham Town Council's reasons for opposing the bid, arguing their complaints did not justify the decision to reject it, while others said the growth of the club was a "big positive" for the town.

Eastern Daily Press: Members of Downham Town Council debating the football club's plans at a meeting in MarchMembers of Downham Town Council debating the football club's plans at a meeting in March (Image: Downham Market Town Council)


Although DTC is able to give its view on planning applications in the town, they are ultimately decided by WNC.

When the football club proposal was debated by WNC earlier this week, there was much more enthusiasm for it.

Members voted to support it unanimously while voicing their confusion as to why the town council chose to object to it.

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Brian LongCouncillor Brian Long (Image: Archant)

Councillor Brian Long said it appeared the authority had "come up with anything and everything" that could have been a reason to reject it.

He also argued the growth of the club will encourage more visitors to the town, who would likely support local shops.

While Pallavi Devulapalli described it as a "good news story" and she said she could not see any grounds for it to be refused.

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Pallavi Devulapalli Councillor Pallavi Devulapalli (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Long added that in his view, Downham Town Council could benefit from getting more training on how to judge planning applications following the debacle.

The plans were approved unanimously.


Following the decision, Dale Stokes, manager of the club, said they were grateful the borough council dismissed Downham Market council's objections.

He said: "The club were of course very aware of the objections to the proposals and we are grateful that WNC dismissed these with conviction and we were impressed with the professional manner in which they did it.

"It is extremely important for our future that we have facilities which not only meet the requirements of the leagues we play in but is also somewhere we can be proud to call our home."

Downham Market Town Council has said it does not make individual comments on local planning applications, other than as part of its role as consultees for WNC.