The lady is for turning!

SUPPORTERS of Wisbech Town s proposed £1 million move to a new ground were jubilant last night (Thursday) after a council official s extraordinary change of mind. Just what is needed was the reaction inside the offices of Peter Humphrey and Associates w

SUPPORTERS of Wisbech Town's proposed £1 million move to a new ground were jubilant last night (Thursday) after a council official's extraordinary change of mind.

"Just what is needed" was the reaction inside the offices of Peter Humphrey and Associates who have masterminded the complex deal.

For in the space of just 15 days, one of the key officials considering the proposals dramatically altered her opinion and "after much discussion between myself and several colleagues, I have decided to recommend conditions and not recommend for refusal."

The volte face by Joanne Garrod, West Norfolk Council's community safety and neighbourhood nuisance officer, represents a major breakthrough for the club.

In a report dated January 23, Ms Garrod had claimed that residents' lives next to the proposed stadium in Lynn Road would be made unbearable by:

# slamming doors

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# shouting from the terraces,

# loud music from the social club

# noise from people smoking outside

"We cannot support this application as it will have a detrimental effect on the amenity of nearby residents," she concluded. "The control measures will have little or no significant impact on any potential nuisance and therefore it cannot be adequately conditioned to control noise and lighting."

She warned that "if this application was approved, residents would be adversely affected by noise. Based on the assessment objectively, complaints are very likely."

She also pointed out that the club's own survey indicates average attendances of 218 - which could cause a significant noise problem- but if full to its 3,000 capacity "the noise would be significantly higher and would be unbearable at nearby properties."

However by February 8, in a memo to Keith Wilkinson, the council's chief planning officer, she changed her mind.

"Initially our main concerns were from the fact that although the survey was on an attendance of 200 people, there is potential for noise from 3,000 people and this may cause considerable annoyance.

"However it is felt that it is unlikely that the club will increase in attendance to a significant extent."

Her earlier report, though, refuted many of the noise tests carried out by the club's consultants and she said neighbours could expect "very noticeable" language and noise levels.

Ms Garrod also questioned the club's traffic predictions, claiming the "worst case scenario of traffic flows has not been accounted for as figures for current attendances have been taken as opposed to the potential capacity. Therefore noise from the traffic has not been properly assessed."

Slamming car doors will also attract complaints, she said, especially from neighbouring Bronte House.

Not even a boundary fence, as proposed, was sufficient she felt since this would "not be significant enough to prevent noise from shouting or door slamming from being audible at residential properties."

Ms Garrod also feared any late licence enjoyed by the club's social club would add "to the potential for nuisance from cars doors, as well as noise from people speaking or shouting. There is also potential for noise from the hall itself, i.e. loud music and also with the new smoking legislation there is potential noise from people smoking outside the hall."

Again, however, Ms Garrod has been won over, pointing out that "acoustic treatments" will reduce noise, licensing laws will control the club house, and "the fact that the games will only actually be held for half the year and the duration of the noise would be for a few hours and may not every week due to away games."

Objectors to the scheme will be able to air their voice next month when the application goes before West Norfolk's development control committee.

One official still unimpressed by changes made to the original proposals is Gemma Cousins, from the council's conservation team.

She said developers need reminding the land for the new stadium "is not an urban area, it is a rural area" and this has not been properly considered.

She claimed a development of this scale and nature would go against many of the council's planning guides and would make a "significant adverse visual effect in the landscape."

Tim Slater, of 3D Planning and employed by Wisbech Town FC as a consultant, believes the club house "will act as an acoustic screen from match noise."

He said: "It is clear that the relocation of the football ground will have an impact upon neighbouring properties. Homes adjacent to the existing ground on Lerowe Road will benefit from the removal of the ground from its constrained site, with a consequent reduction in noise disturbance and parking issues.

"Properties close to or adjoining the proposed new ground will experience an impact upon residential amenity, in respect of increased noise and disturbance particularly on match days. It is considered that through proper management and mitigation these impacts can be kept within acceptable limits."

He added that it was clear "that for the vast majority of the time, the proposal will have no adverse impact" although there would be periods of time when residents would feel the presence of the club.

Mr Slater felt it was "an unusual application" since the determining authority was based in Kings Lynn whereas the site was of more significance to Fenland and in particular to Wisbech.