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Academy Expansion Recommended for Rejection

Tomorrow's meeting of Tyneside Council's Planning Committee (August 9th) is being recommended to refuse planning permission for an expansion of the Sunderland AFC Academy of Light.

The approved work on the development of the Academy at Whitburn Moor is now well advanced and the Football Club has submitted a new set of proposals to include an indoor training barn (9,200 square metres) on the site of the floodlit full-size artificial surface pitch approved as part of Phase One.

Sunderland AFC is also seeking planning permission for a student hostel (52 bed spaces - 1100 square metres) as an extension to the approved indoor facilities.

There is also a proposal to build an above ground, freestanding groundsman's store. Although smaller than the one already permitted the original proposal was to hide the building within an approved landscaped mound.

The club also wants to erect a 2.4 metre high perimeter fence around the whole site and to build a nature study centre (80 square metres) with an observation deck.

South Tyneside's Development Control officers are recommending that the Planning Committee should refuse all the proposals because they are inappropriate development in the Green Belt and Sunderland AFC has failed to demonstrate that very special circumstances exist.

In a report to the Planning Committee on Friday August 9th, Paul Dowling, Local Development Manager, says that the proposals also represent a major departure from the Inspector's conditions.

The proposals significantly extend beyond the conditions imposed by the Planning Inspector to restrict the impact of the Academy within the sensitive and narrow Green Belt separating South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Planning Officers have undertaken full consultation with neighbours, statutory bodies. There have been 200 letters of objection. Sunderland City Council, which did not object to the original application, has opposed the new proposals on inappropriate Green Belt use and increased traffic.

In recommending refusal, the report says that the football club has failed to demonstrate lack of alternative sites for the barn and hostel.

The proposed groundsman's store, is accepted as appropriate, but the proposed design is unacceptable and the store is located in a prominent and exposed position. The perimeter fence would enclose a significant area of proposed open access woodland.

The report also says that overall the proposals would have a detrimental impact on the Green Belt and are contrary to local and national planning policy.

The Council is supportive of the aims and ideals of the new Academy, however it is the case that while certain facilities are a requirement for Academy status it is not essential that all facilities are located on one site.

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