Delay could blow Lowestoft football pitch bid
- Credit: N
A row erupted this week after a decision on plans for new sporting facilities in Lowestoft was delayed amid objections from people living nearby.
Hopes were high that a £700,000 scheme to install a new all-weather pitch and floodlights at Kirkley and Pakefield Football Club's Walmer Road ground would win the go-ahead on Tuesday.
But the project – which has the backing of the Football Association (FA) – has prompted fierce opposition from people in Silverwood Close and Walmer Road, whose homes overlook the pitches.
They fear it could lead to increased noise and light pollution and extra traffic in Walmer Road – prompting members of Waveney District Council's development control committee to defer a final decision on the plans until after they have visited the site.
Officials at the football club have hit out at the delay, claiming the residents' complaints are unfounded and could derail the whole project.
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Harry Goldspink, general manager of Kirkley and Pakefield FC's adults section, said: 'We've got a handful of people who have complained for 12 years. What they're complaining about has nothing to do with the new development. It's all to do with the current football ground which was approved 12 years ago.'
The club currently has a full-sized, floodlit grass pitch and a smaller artificial pitch which is also lit. They are used during the week until 9.30pm, with the lights turned off at 10pm.
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There are also a number of unlit grass pitches that cannot be used on dark winter evenings.
Under the latest plans, the new full-sized, all-weather artificial pitch
would be installed in the centre of the most easterly playing area and surrounded by catch fencing and floodlights.
The FA has offered to pay more than £650,000 towards the project and Kirkley and Pakefield FC has raised £50,000.
At present, more than half the club's 35 teams are forced to train and play at other sites because of a lack of available pitch time. But, if approved, the new facilities would enable all of them to train and play at their home ground for the first time.
It would also allow a further 540 children to practise each week between 6pm and 9pm during the winter.
Pakefield High School has also contributed to the scheme as its pupils would be able to use the facilities during lessons, and it is hoped that other clubs would hire the pitches during free periods.
Mr Goldspink added: 'If this is refused, we will lose a grant of more than £650,000 from the FA to build this brand-new facility for the children of Lowestoft, and for the school and all the people that are going to use it. We are going to give it away for nothing.'
Club secretary Barrie Atkins said the new artificial pitch would be more than 60m from homes and that the new floodlights would have a reach of 10m – making them less intrusive than the existing, much older lights at the main pitch which the club hoped to replace.
He said the club had agreed not to hold evening games on Saturdays or Sundays, would consider widening the single-track access road to its car park to encourage more people to use it and was keen to work with neighbours to resolve any outstanding issues.
Mr Atkins said the development could actually provide an improvement for residents. 'When we play league matches on a Sunday we are up near Silverwood Close but if we are on the new artificial pitch it will take us away from the fence,' he added.
The club, which has a senior team in the premier division of the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League, currently has 350 children signed to its junior teams, a further six adult teams and two teams for disabled players.
Mr Atkins added: 'We're talking to Lowestoft police about charging £1 for a Friday night play for all young children that don't normally play football. They have tried it in other parts of the country and it has helped to reduce crime in that area.'
There has been a recreation ground in Walmer Road since 1939 but houses have since been built around it, leading to tensions between the club and its neighbours.
Waveney district councillor Peter Byatt said he had spoken to residents about their concerns.
He told Tuesday's meeting: 'People are concerned about the use of the site and the plan for further night-time activity. I would suggest it will have an adverse impact on the locality due to increased disturbance.
'The site is enclosed on three sides by residential units, including a large number of sheltered housing units.
'There have been complaints about disturbance for some years and they're not limited to the immediate neighbours. Expanding the facility will only exacerbate problems.'
Mr Byatt, who represents the Pakefield ward, said he felt the development should take place on a different site away from residential areas, such as Barnards Meadow in north Lowestoft. He called on the committee to hold a site visit to fully appreciate the implications of the proposals for local residents.
He added: 'They can't sit in the garden without noise disturbance. This is not NIMBYism. It is a group of concerned residents and this is about their quality of life.'
David Castell, a nearby resident, told planning councillors the scheme was 'totally unsuited' to the site.
He said: 'It is often too noisy now to be outside and bad language is common place. The shouting is unpleasant and invasive. Inconsiderate parking leads to obstruction and risk of accident.
'Balls in the gardens cause damage and arguments which damage people's health and quality of life. The problems will clearly intensify and worsen with increased usage of this site.'