U's training ground plan rejected

A PROPOSAL from Colchester United for a new training complex on the outskirts of an Essex village could be a “Trojan horse” for major development, it has been claimed.

James Hore

A PROPOSAL from Colchester United for a new training complex on the outskirts of an Essex village could be a “Trojan horse” for major development, it has been claimed.

The accusation comes as the League One club admitted it was considering appealing against a “surprise” decision from councillors to reject plans for its development at Tiptree.

The club had been hoping to get the green-light for five pitches, including one for community use, on agricultural land it owns at Grange Road.

Players currently train at Essex University but the facilities are no longer suitable for the club.

However, there was widespread opposition from Tiptree residents with more than 460 letters of opposition and just 13 in support, according to Colchester Borough Council.

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Its planning committee rejected the application saying they were concerned that there were no proposals for changing rooms or toilets.

The club was to submit a separate application for changing facilities and then another one for housing on the land.

The Campaign to Protect Rural Essex said whilst it did not object to the pitches, it believed the facility was only of a “limited usefulness”, meaning more applications and intensification of activity at the site was “inevitable.”

It said: “There is also the issue of the applicant's intention to seek permission for housing on the land adjoining.

“Clearly, this is not part of the present application but it does reinforce our concerns that the current application is a Trojan horse for major urbanisation on the edge of Tiptree.”

Residents told the council they believed the proposal only benefits “outsiders” and not the village and said the surrounding roads would not be able to cope.

And although planning officers have welcomed the community pitch, questions have been raised about the amount of parking.

Chairman of Tiptree Parish council, John Elliot, said: “Speaking on behalf of the council, one pitch would not really help that much as we are desperately short of facilities here.

“We are quite happy with the result. I can't see, to be honest, that Colchester United would want to change the plans enough to make the people in Tiptree happy.

“The housing was not up for discussion in this application, but people would not be happy if that were to come at a later stage.”

In a statement following the rejection, Colchester United said it had been asked to provide more information about the buildings and changing facilities that will support the pitches and clarification on the levels of proposed community usage.

“Colchester United Football Club is obviously disappointed by the decision and will of course develop the application as requested.

“Consideration is now been taken on whether to appeal the decision but planning advice suggests that this is the likely course of action.”

Steve Bradshaw, the club's chief executive, said: “We are surprised that the committee have gone against the planning recommendations of their officers and denied us permission for a new training facility.

“It is interesting to note that there are no statutory consultees' objections to the application.

“The club has done everything asked of us by the planning officers. We will of course be taking legal advice on whether an appeal will be lodged.”