PNE training ground bid fails to clear planning hurdle

Preston North End's ambitious bid to build a new training ground has been thrown into doubt after a planning knock-back.

An artist's impression of part of the training ground facility
An artist's impression of part of the training ground facility

Councillors refused an outline application for the Ingol Golf Club site, which includes housing developments and a public park, over concerns it would create urban sprawl.

However, a separate application on the specifics of the training ground itself gained planning approval despite a split vote.

It is understood the overall plan will not be possible without approval of both applications, therefore a cloud of doubt hovers over the club's multi-million pound bid.

The planning meeting was delayed on Thursday afternoon as officers were sent out to find extra chairs with around 80 residents packed into the public gallery area.

The vote to oppose the outline plans was greeted with a round of applause but will be a bitter blow for the Championship club.

Councillors expressed concerns the housing developments would lead to the merging of urban areas and would have a detrimental impact on the identity of local communities.

The meeting was also told aspects of the plans breached local planning guidelines such as the city's core strategy framework.

A motion proposed by Coun Susan Whittam to reject the overall plan was backed by four votes to three, with one abstention.

The application relating to just the training ground was a split four-four vote with the casting vote given to chairman Coun Javed Iqbal, meaning it was passed.

Peter Ridsdale, advisor to owner Trevor Hemmings, who represented PNE, 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."

Bruce Ellison, who spoke against the application on behalf of the local residents' association, highlighted that the plans contradicted aspects of the council's own planning guidelines

He told committee members: "Don't be afraid to reject this application, support your local plan."

A statement from the club said: "The Council's decision today to refuse the main planning application involving a new training facility, gifted open space and residential development is a major blow to our aspirations, and therefore the city's aspirations, of us achieving our Premier League ambitions.

"We will now reflect on the way forward, knowing that whatever we ultimately achieve will be without the support of the City Council."

The committee considered two applications relating to the overall plan. The first was for outline planning permission for the site, the second specifically seeking approval for the training facilities and a new access road from Walker Lane.

The Championship's representatives had requested the applications were heard concurrently as it was their intention for the site to be ready in time for the 2018/19 season.

In order for this timescale to be met, construction would need to start in August of this year, according to planning documents.