Keith gives stadium plans the thumbs up

WEB EXCLUSIVE WEST Norfolk s most senior planner – who ironically began his career with Fenland District Council - has thrown his weight behind Wisbech Town s proposed £1 million stadium complex on the Lynn Road. Keith Wilkinson s recommendation to appro


WEST Norfolk's most senior planner - who ironically began his career with Fenland District Council - has thrown his weight behind Wisbech Town's proposed £1 million stadium complex on the Lynn Road.

Keith Wilkinson's recommendation to approve the highly contentious eight acre development will go before West Norfolk's development control on Monday when councillors get their first chance to debate the scheme.

However objectors were quick to protest and one said "it would be an absolute nightmare if this stadium is built and I would move to another area."

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Mr Wilkinson's long awaited endorsement - which is at odds with some of his own colleagues -drew muted applause from club chairman Barry Carter.

"I'm pleased but there is still a long way to go," said Mr Carter. "We've had to overcome several problems and have worked hard to comply with all the conditions that have been imposed on us.

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"I'm a bit more confident that the stadium will go ahead - if it doesn't then it will probably push the club over the edge.

"We already had several debts to overcome at the start of this process and we've had to fork out a lot comply with the conditions. It's taken a lot of hard work just to keep the club going until now."

Mr Wilkinson, the council's principal planner, says there are no more central sites for the development, the location is accessible, and there was an obvious need for the new stadium.

"It is concluded that the benefits to be gained from the development outweigh those adverse effects identified by objectors," he said.

"The proposal will bring benefits to the community and provide a facility for the town. It is also of note that Fenland District Council do not object to the proposal and its impact upon Wisbech.

"They have already granted consent for housing on the existing site, linked to the provision of an alternative facility."

Mr Wilkinson said car sales, a farm shop, a nursery, carpet warehouse, industrial units and a transport depot already litter the Lynn Road "which therefore has a character of pockets of sporadic housing and commercial uses, some of which are significant in scale."

If the committee backs the approval recommendation, the final decision rests with the Secretary of State because of the nature of the scheme.

Mr Wilkinson is recommending approval in the face of opposition from some of his own planners who feel the site is inappropriate for such large scale development.

The recommendation "would completely go against" the council's own guidelines, says a planning policy report.

The committee will be told that the application has attracted 13 letters of support and 54 letters of objection.

The main objections are with parking, traffic, noise and floodlights.

Edwina Howlett, who lives on Nursery Drive, next to the site, said: "West Norfolk Council have bent over backwards for Wisbech Town Football Club and the way this application has been dealt with is an absolute farce.

"Their approval goes against the Norfolk County Council's planning policy and they've taken no notice of our concerns.

"I moved here 33 years ago because it's a green-field site. It's always been a lovely place to live with a real community spirit.

"But it would be an absolute nightmare if this stadium is built and I would move to another area."

She added: "Having 200 people making loads of noise on a Saturday afternoon would be bad enough but the problems would just start there. There would be reserve matches and training sessions and the club would have to try and make money so I imagine the club house would be used several nights a week, so we would have people walking around our neighbourhood after drinking. We could end up having a night club in our street for all I know."

Phil Perry, of Walton Road said: "I lived next to a football pitch in London and it wasn't pleasant. It's not ideal when you try and teach your children not to swear and they hear all the foul language that goes on.

"I moved here to settle down and enjoy a quiet life.

"Most of the people who live around here are elderly and they spend most of their time indoors so this stadium would be a massive nuisance."

He added: "I will be at Monday's meeting with several other objectors and if common sense prevails we will be listened to."

Mr Carter revealed that he planned to appeal if the stadium is rejected but had not considered any other site.

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