South Tyneside Council's Planning Committee today (August 9th) refused Sunderland Football Club's planning applications to build an indoor training barn, hostel, nature study centre and security fencing at the club's training academy at Sunderland Road, Cleadon.
Members of the Committee agreed with recommendations from Council Planning Officers that the proposals are inappropriate development in the Green Belt and that there are no very special circumstances that would outweigh the harm that each of the proposals would cause to the openness of the Green Belt.
The Committee felt that the sizes of the proposed training barn and student hostel far exceeded what was necessary for the club to retain its Academy status, bearing in mind that development in Green Belts should always be the minimum necessary for the requirements of the sport.
Members also agreed with concerns about the prominent locations of the proposed barn and hostel. The Committee believed that the club's latest proposals for the groundsman's store was not acceptable as it would be visually prominent in the isolated location now proposed outside the main building group.
While acknowledging that there are particular security requirements that result from the specialised use of the site and its countryside location, it was felt that the 2.4m fence was insensitive to this open Green Belt location.
The proposed nature study centre was also rejected as premature given that the educational facilities in the main building were not yet operational. The club will be asked to reconsider this proposal once the facilities currently under construction are operational and the need for the development of further educational facilities could be assessed properly.
Councillor Audrey McMillan, Chair of the Planning Committee, said: "I am very concerned that the Football Club has contrary to previous indications decided to seek expansion of the facilities on the site. I am also seriously concerned that they also sought to severely restrict public access to the open woodland areas of the site."
"I was very disappointed that the club chose not to be represented at the Planning Committee to support their applications and to answer any questions."
Councillor McMillan said that the Council will now explore ways in which the club's aspirations for the Academy could be achieved without a harmful impact on a particularly narrow and sensitive part of South Tyneside's Green Belt.
She added: "The Planning Committee believes that some elements of the club's proposals could be accommodated within the built-up area of South Tyneside to promote urban regeneration and to make the educational and community benefits more accessible to young people in the borough."