Preston MP, council leader and 2,500 fans back PNE's training ground bid

An artists impression of PNEs plansAn artists impression of PNEs plans
An artists impression of PNEs plans
The fallout from the council's controversial decision to reject Preston North End's training ground masterplan continues to reverberate.

Today the Lancashire Post backs the club in its bid to build the state-of-the-art facilities crucial to their Premier League aspirations.

And we call on the respective parties – the club, the council and residents – to work together to establish a plan beneficial to all.

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However, a residents’ group at the forefront of the opposition to the over-arching plans said it will stand firm if a modified application is submitted.

Meanwhile, Lilywhites fans have launched two petitions which between them have already attracted around 2,500 signatories.

The planning committee’s decision to reject the bid for the training ground, housing developments and public park provision at Ingol Golf Club, sparked a furious response from political leaders.

And talks are understood to have taken place on Friday between town hall and PNE representatives.

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In a statement, Preston City Council leader Coun Peter Rankin said: “I am extremely disappointed by this decision to reject the major scheme as this puts in doubt the delivery of the new training ground, which would have been a significant boost for the ambitions of PNE.

“Whilst I appreciate and understand the concerns that have been expressed by residents, it represents a key investment. I did hope that appropriate planning controls, combined with the significant public open space, would have been enough to provide reassurance.

“Preston North End has a huge part to play in the life of Preston and Prestonians and has done for many years. We hope to see them continuing to invest in the team and in the city despite this setback.”

Likewise, city MP Mark Hendrick posted on Twitter: “Usually don’t comment on council matters as MP but planning committee refusal of PNE training ground, housing and park application is madness.”

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The club needed the green light for the housing schemes to fund the training ground build.

It remains to be seen what route owner Trevor Hemmings opts to take, with suggestions the club could appeal the decision – given that council officers had recommended the bid for approval or, more likely, re-submit a modified application and return to the committee.

A statement from the club in the immediate aftermath read: “We will now reflect on the way forward, knowing that whatever we ultimately achieve will be without the support of the city council.”

The rejection of the overall plan was greeted with rapturous applause inside the town hall with the public gallery packed with around 80 residents on Thursday.

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The motion submitted by Conservative councillors for Preston Rural North Susan Whittam to reject the hybrid application, which encompassed all aspects of the plans, was voted through by four votes to three with one abstention.

Concerns were voiced the nine housing areas would create urban sprawl and the overall plans would be detrimental to open space provision. A separate application relating to just the training ground was approved after a split four-four vote with the casting vote going to committee chair Coun Javed Iqbal.

But the club had previously said the houses were required to fund the state-of-the-art training ground.

If it had been given the green light, the over-arching application would have created the first public park in the city for decades.

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Coun Rankin added in what was a flurry of Twitter posts following the committee’s decision: “Housing needed to pay for the £14m Premiership level training facilities and a new public park. Left with just disused golf club.”

Peter Ridsdale, adviser to owner Trevor Hemmings, who represented PNE at the town hall, had earlier told the committee hearing: “We are one of only five teams in the Championship to have never played in the Premier League.

“Only last Saturday I was showing a young player from Manchester United we are hoping to sign around our (current) training ground and it doesn’t really compare to Carrington.

“There are enough reports to show the economic benefits to a city when it gets Premier League football.

“We want our city to be proud of us and we want to deliver Premier League football.”