Preston North End: '˜We now start the hard work to make plans a reality'
It had all the hallmarks of a fiercely contested cup tie - spread over two legs, a change of venue at the halfway stage and all the action played out in front of capacity, and outspoken, crowds.
And at the final whistle Preston North End finished with the result the club had been hoping for.
The city’s planning committee has voted in favour of the Championship club’s re-submitted training ground masterplan having rejected the original incarnation just two months before.
Those who opposed the plans - both councillors and residents’ groups - have indicated the fight is far from over, but the club will be keen to press on with construction with a view of having the training ground completed ahead of the 2018/19 season.
Committee members were told at the outset of yesterday’s proceedings at the Guild Hall their previous decision to grant permission for just the training ground had been ratified.
And in relation to the re-submitted bid before them, chairman Coun Javed Iqbal asked his colleagues to approach it with an open mind and treat it as a new bid.
But the comparisons between the failed application and the fresh one were soon placed under scrutiny.
Objectors highlighted the proposals were still in breach of local planning guidelines and would have a detrimental impact on the identity of local communities through urban sprawl.
They also disputed whether the public open space would indeed be public if privately run and whether access issues had been addressed.
Coun Neil Darby, Lib Dem member for Ingol said: “The Preston Local Plan was put together through an awful lot of hard work, time and money. It is designed to make sure as the city expands it is protected against potentially unscrupulous development.
“By going ahead and over-riding it lays open the rest of the plan to other developers.
“I urge the committee to honour the (Local Plan) and keep the city safe against unscrupulous development.”
Council officers had recommended the plan for approval and a majority of councillors, this time, followed their advice.
They agreed the benefits outweighed the aspects that ran contrary to the planning guidelines.
Speaking to the Lancashire Post after the decision, Peter Ridsdale, advisor to PNE owner Trevor Hemmings said: “People have criticised that we are reducing the amount of open space.
“The fact is it’s private land, we’re gifting public open space in perpetuity for the public so we’re turning private land into public land, plus housing and the training ground.
“That gives a long term solution for the land, I can’t believe anybody doesn’t see that as a benefit for the city.”