CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new 5,000 capacity football stadium for Weymouth FC in Lodmoor have been thrown out by borough councillors.
Nearly 100 local residents attended the highly-charged planning and traffic committee meeting of the borough council at the Pavilion today.
Councillors voted unanimously to reject the application due to lack of compliance with land contamination guidelines and fears that the stadium and surrounding urbanisation of the area would adversely affect Lodmoor Country Park.
Members of the committee visited the site on Tuesday morning and also received a detailed report from council officers who urged councillors to grant planning permission for the stadium, which would include an all-seater stand housing 700 fans plus three smaller covered stands taking the capacity up to 5,000, but they decided against the proposals.
It remains unclear whether the decision will be appealed by the developers.
The plans, submitted by developers Wessex Delivery LLP, outlined the development as a community sports stadium, and included two pitches a bar, a cafe, a shop and a car park for 38 spaces.
Plans for a new stadium for the Terras and the redevelopment of the club’s current home ground, the Bob Lucas Stadium, have divided opinion in the town.
The issue of whether to build 170 homes at the current stadium is going to appeal after West Dorset District Council refused planning permission. The matter will go before the Planning Inspectorate in November.
It was also revealed last week the borough council had not accepted any offer for the land at Lodmoor ahead of the proposed re-development.
Councillor Ian Bruce said: “This land is owned by the borough council and we have not accepted any offers from developers for the land.
“The council has a number of plans to utilise this land for the benefit of the area. The council own the site, but ownership of the site and planning permission are two separate things.”
Peter Tanney, from Tanner and Tilley, a firm that specialises in planning applications, said the new stadium development would create 360 jobs during construction plus an extra 34 permanent positions once building was finished.
He was then heckled by the audience when he said that the floodlights would cause no more disturbance than the current street lighting in the area, and the noise generated by the stadium would be no more than what’s generated in the surrounding facilities such as the Sea Life centre.
Speaking at the meeting, Weymouth FC vice-chairman Tony Greaves said that at a recent shareholder meeting, 98 per cent of shareholders had backed the move and the club was in discussions with shareholders and developers to ensure the right facilities were built at the stadium.
Eleven residents spoke of their objections to the proposals, as they slammed the financial running of the club, the lack of car parking spaces at the new stadium, the logistics of the plans and said that the council could end up with a “an extremely expensive white elephant on its hands” if they voted through proposals.
Councillors also spoke of their objections to the plans and Cllr Christine James told the meeting she was ‘insulted’ by the letter of justification sent out by developers.
She said: “I was quite insulted by the bullet points that were on the letter for the reasons for certain parts of the application and I just wonder who did it.
“If they knew the area, they would know that the street lighting is turned off at midnight so the floodlights would definitely have an adverse affect.
“Also, it is not a community sports stadium as they are suggesting, it’s a football stadium to be primarily used by footballers and football fans. Yes, the community may get to use the two pitches, but at what cost?
“And the community facilities they talk about are just a bar and some toilets.”
Weymouth Football Club refused to comment when contacted by the Echo.
'Exceptional plans' needed - former director
Shaun Hennessy, a former director at the football club, described the decision as a setback.
Mr Hennessy said: “I am not surprised by it. To get the stadium into that site would need some very exceptional plans for it to be accepted.
“I would say the board decided to support it, so this is probably a setback to them rather than a damaging blow.
“I would imagine that they would appeal the decision, and I’d suggest that this decision has probably played into their hands quite well.
“For Weymouth Football Club to be successful, the club needs to be making money 24/7 not just when football is on which seems not to be the case at this stadium, which is a shame.”