U’s give pledge to be ‘good neighbours’

THE chairman of Colchester United has said the club will be a “good neighbour” to residents in Tiptree, after plans to extend the hours of use at the their training ground in the village were approved.

The club submitted an application to Colchester Borough Council to amend three of the 34 conditions placed on its original planning permission for Florence Park training ground.

Club chairman Robbie Cowling said the decision means their youth academy, which must demonstrate players receive a certain amount of training, can continue and 60 jobs are saved.

The council had received complaints from some residents who claimed the club was using the ground outside agreed hours and players were swearing.

The original application for the training ground was submitted two years ago and carried a number of restrictions. Mr Cowling said the club sought to extend the hours of use since joining the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan to develop youth football.

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Members of the council’s planning committee approved the club’s most recent application on Thursday evening. The club will now be allowed to use the site on weekdays from August to April, between the hours of 9.30am to 3.30pm. At weekends, the site may be used from 10am to 1pm.

However, the training ground cannot be used at all in May and June. In July it can be used during the week from 10am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. Mr Cowling said: “I am really relieved – it’s really good news. If we had been turned down Colchester United would have been looking to fold their youth academy.

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“We still think it’s restrictive not being able to use the ground for two months of the year, but it gives us enough to continue with our youth academy and we understand there has to be compromise.

“We will do our best to be good neighbours and we will listen to them. I have never heard swearing, but I think we had an under-18 game and there was some then and they were sent off.”

Mr Cowling said 40 part-time and 20 full-time jobs had been saved. He added: “I’m not surprised they approved our application, as planning is about the law and we met every single requirement. Had it not gone through we would have appealed.

“The academy is absolutely delighted. For the last six months the boys, staff and parents have been wanting to know what’s going on as it’s their future.”

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