FOREST Green Rovers have tonight had their bid for a new 5,000 seat wooden stadium approved, writes Leigh Boobyer.
Councillors voted in favour of the stadium plans at the meeting at Stroud District Council’s base in Ebley Mill this evening.
The outline bid was accepted by councillors after six votes in favour of the plans with four councillors voting against.
Following the decision, Forest Green Rovers‘ club chairman Dale Vince said: “I feel pleased. I think it’s the right decision, but I was still glad that it was made.
“Also it’s our second attempt and it could have gone either way, so i’m glad.”
He added: “If we could start work tomorrow then we could have it up in three years.”
Back in June the club had their first bid rejected after councillors voted against the eco-friendly stadium planned to be built next to J13 of the M5 by a majority of three.
They had cited concerns over noise, traffic and the impact on the local community.
The club put forward new changes to the proposal.
According to a report published on Stroud District Council’s website, the new proposal for the League Two side’s football arena had been tweaked to include increased matchday transport and an impact study on Nailsworth, where the club’s current home is.
And according to the economic impact study by consultants Hetch Regeneris, moving Rovers’ stadium outside Nailsworth will not have a “detrimental effect on the future vitality and viability of Nailsworth town centre”.
Before the decision was announced, councillors put forward their thoughts on the stadium plans, with LDR Leigh Boobyer providing updates from the meeting.
One council officer said there will “be a net loss to Nailsworth but a net gain for the whole Stroud district.”
Councillor John Jones, who presents the Severn ward, said: “It is my view there is insufficient benefit to residents, despite there being an all-weather football pitch for small clubs being on offer.
“This is a large-scale departure from the policies of our local plan and the Eastington neighbourhood development plan. There is detrimental impact to the landscape and massive intrusion on the countryside.
“The new local plan does include the site for consideration, but it is a while that that would be adopted.”
Councillor Stephen Davies said: “The Nailsworth economic impact predicts the town will lose £250,000 net if FGR moves out. It is an area with an already struggling high street.
“What this stadium requires is a park and ride for the New Lawn.”
Councillor Norman Kay, who represents the Nailsworth ward, said: “It would be an incredible loss for traders during football season. We haven’t got a thriving town centre, we have one that is struggling to make ends meet. It will be catastrophic for the town centre traders.
“The so-called eco-Park does not outweigh the harm that will be caused to Nailsworth.”
A representative of Whitminster parish council said: “Why are we tearing up green land? The current stadium also has 5,000 seats but only gets an attendance of 2,500.”
Jonathan Duckworth, mayor of Nailsworth Town Council, said: “The new stadium will damage the market town of Nailsworth’s community and it will damage the community is moves. Please refuse it.”
FGR chairman Dale Vince said: “It is inconceivable the current stadium got planning permission. We are running out of power and water, and we have about 3,000 attendances on average. We did look at alternative sites, to call the current one an ‘easy way out’ is ridiculous.
“It will be the greenest sports stadium in the world. We will plant 500 trees with 1km of new hedgerows.
“To say that FGR moving out of Nailsworth would be catastrophic for businesses is ridiculous. The new stadium would bring £1million to the area around J13 M5, Eastington and other surrounding areas.”
A council officer has said noise would not increase if the stadium went from having 5,000 seats to 10,000. One councillor asked if a wall will be considered, which was a yes. “It would be a 3-4m wall in the countryside, either as close to the stadium as possible or the college,” he said.
Councillor Steve Lydon proposed members approve the outline application subject to conditions.
He said: “I see this as a real opportunity to lift us up and look to the future. Our plans are important but it is also our job as elected members to balance and make those decisions.”
Councillor Nigel Cooper said: “I am not convinced about the argument of economic benefit, I think it’s been overstated. The fundamental issue for me is it is sited on green fields which we will lose, where we should be trying to protect the countryside.”
Councillor Haydn Jones said: “It is not part of the local plan and anybody would challenge that. This is a football stadium not a pair of semis. It is not unreasonable that we test what’s in front of us.”
Councillor Dorcas Binns said: “I would like FGR to look at the stadium they have at the moment. Why can’t we work with them to improve what they have. Nailsworth is FGR and FGR is Nailsworth. You can’t break them up.”
Councillor Miranda Clifton said: “This building is iconic, it could be a tourist attraction. At the moment we are known for our waste incinerator.”
Club chairman Dale Vince said he he “really pleased” the stadium was approved pic.twitter.com/hJCF1WRF0Z
— Leigh Boobyer (@LeighBoobyer) December 18, 2019