Controversial plans for four floodlights around the main pitch at AEK-BOCO Football Club in Hanham are being recommended for approval.
The plans also include two covered 50-seater spectator areas and a 1.8 metre fence around the perimeter of the main pitch.
125 letters of objection and 240 letters of support were received during the consultation. Hanham Parish Council also voiced objections.
Residents living near the Greenbank Road ground are concerned about more noise and anti-social behaviour, light pollution from the floodlights (each more than 18 metres high), worsening traffic problems and the impact on property values.
The floodlights will be as close as 15 metres in places to properties.
Supporters meanwhile say the proposals are vital for sustaining future of club, the lights will only be used for Saturday and Wednesday evenings and there has been scaremongering, with many objections consisting of unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence of impact.
The club say they want to improve facilities to Toolstation Western League standards, which they aspire to play at, and that floodlighting would enable them to play in the Under 18 Somerset Floodlit League, while the next step for their successful ladies team is competing in the South West Women’s Football League.
A 21-page report prepared by South Gloucestershire Council planning officer Patrick Jackson recommends that the plans are approved. Hanham councillor June Bamford last week asked that the Development Management Committee make the decision, rather than delegating it, because of the high number of objections and because the land is leased from the council, hence the need for transparency in the decision-making process.
As a result, a site visit by councillors has been scheduled for Friday 31st May and a decision by the Development Management Committee is expected to be taken on Thursday 13th June.
The report says one of the main concerns raised by objectors is the potential increase in noise: “The environmental health officer has outlined that complaints are likely to continue or increase as a result of further intensification of the site. However to date, no statutory nuisance has been substantiated.”
The planning officer concludes that allowing the development would not significantly worsen the existing situation to the extent that the application should be refused on grounds of noise pollution. He adds that “ensuring that effective management measures are in place is considered the most appropriate means of controlling noise impact, rather than restricting the club from improving their facilities”.
His report says the floodlights have been designed to create as minimal light spill as possible and that the structures would not result in any significant overbearing or overshadowing impacts.
“Whilst the lit pitch would be more visible to surrounding residents and there may be a degree of secondary glow, it is not concluded that this would translate to an adverse impact on living conditions. Furthermore, the lights would only be used for a restricted period of time.
“It is noted that the proposed lighting columns, most notably those positioned towards the northern end of the site, would be situated in relatively close proximity to residential properties. The proposed north-eastern floodlight would be situated approximately 15m from the southern boundary of the nearest properties along Tyler Close. The north-western floodlight would be situated roughly 21m from the boundary of the 77 dwelling development to the north west of the site.”
The 77 homes site he refers to is still being built by Bellway Homes, see above.
Another worry raised was the increased pressure on local roads and parking. However, the council’s transport officer is satisfied that the provision of floodlights, two stands and fencing would not directly lead to such an increase in visitor numbers to result in a road safety hazard.
Concerns were also raised relating to the ability of local residents to access the whole of the Greenbank playing field site. The report says: “It is acknowledged that the provision of fencing would restrict access to the main sports pitch. However, it has been outlined as part of the submission that the access gates situated at several points around the perimeter of the pitch would only be locked shut during Toolstation Western League matches as this is a league requirement. During all other times, the gates would be locked open as to allow public access on to and across the pitch.”
AEK-BOCO have also taken over management and maintenance of the council’s sites at Tenniscourt Road and Fisher Road in Kingswood and an assessment by the council’s Community Spaces Team published earlier this year indicated that the Tennis Court Road playing field could be “a more appropriate site for a Level 6 football pitch due to its size and location”.
However, the planning officer says in his report that on the basis that “no unacceptable socio-environmental harm” has been identified at Greenbank Road site, it would be “unreasonable” to request that the main pitch with associated facilities are relocated to another site.
He also says that the predicted impact on house prices around the Greenbank Road ground has “no bearing” on the assessment of the planning application.
Even if the committee decides to grant consent next month, the council will then have to decide, in its role as landlord, whether to allow AEK-BOCO to implement it.