Politics and sport did not mix this week when the planning committee of Preston Council turned down PNE’s application to build a new training ground.
It provoked a response among Lilywhites fans as strong as I can remember on any topic.
North End had gone to the planning meeting hoping to get permission to build the new training complex on land at Ingol Golf Club – land owned by Trevor Hemmings the PNE owner.
The application also sought permission for 450 houses to be built, it being revenue from the eventual sale of those which would help cover the cost of the training ground.
Councillors turned down the outline application – the housing – but did pass the training ground specifics.
However, one cannot be done without the other, the training ground due to cost in the region of £11m to build.
Without the housing, the only way to pay it for would be Hemmings having to dip into his pocket again.
It was something of a close call, 4-3 in favour of rejecting PNE’s outline application with one of the committee choosing to abstain – why sit on the fence when you are one of the few who can vote on such matters?
I’ll declare my interest at this point, I’m a North End supporter and hoped to see the training ground given the green light.
That might not endear me to the local residents who hold very strong views on the issue and didn’t want the complex and in particular, the housing, as neighbours.
With Ingol Golf Club closed down though, the alternative could be neglected and fenced-off land, left alone to overgrow.
The north Preston area is awash with new housing springing up, hence a great deal of bemusement about the objection to the disused golf club being built on.
Accepted, it is not in the green belt land covered by the city deal.
But the council’s planning officers had recommended the application be accepted, so it can’t have wavered too far off course.
I doubt that Thursday’s planning meeting was the last we will hear of this.
North End could appeal on the grounds the planning officers had recommended it, advice councillors went against.
The application could well be re-submitted, with or without amendment.
From PNE’s point of view, it is something of a race with the clock.
The plan was to be able to start training there this time next year, for that to happen work laying the pitches and bedding them in has to start in the coming few weeks.
There are commitments to wildlife too, which have to be taken into consideration.
From a purely football point of view – putting the ins-and-outs of planning policy to one side – North End need a new training ground to help them grow.
Springfields is decent but rather tired, most other clubs at this level having left them behind in the training ground stakes.
The pitches are very good but the indoor facilities lack the modern touch.
You only have to look at Fleetwood Town’s training complex at Poolfoot Farm in Thornton, to see an example of a thriving facility.
If PNE’s application to build at Ingol totally hits the buffers, it could well see the club at a crossroads.
Would there be the desire from Hemmings to continue his funding of North End on the scale it is now, with a perception that support from the city council is thin on the ground?
It could be an interesting few weeks ahead as we wait for the next step.
Away from the Town Hall committee rooms, we saw former PNE loan goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the news this week as he completed a £30m move to Everton from Sunderland.
Football is very much a game of opinion, with us keen to argue and disagree on many points.
But I’m sure those who watched Pickford in action for Preston during his loan spell in 2015/16, will have been in full agreement that the boy would go far.
Perhaps a move for the whopping sum of £30m was something we didn’t quite envisage, however the going rate for top talent is growing.
Pickford kept 13 clean sheets in his 27 appearances in the PNE keeper’s jersey, decent stats to say the least.
With North End new to the Championship when he arrived, defensive solidity was key to them settling into the division.
Pickford went six games at one stage without having to pick the ball out of his net, a run which really gave PNE a foothold in the division.
I wish him all the luck in the world at Everton, a club I have plenty of time for, and really hope that the price tag doesn’t weigh him down.
It might be that under Ronald Koeman, Pickford is not required to launch those booming but very accurate goalkicks that we used to see at Deepdale.
On the subject of keepers, auf wiedersehen to another ex-PNE player – Thorsten Stuckmann – who moved back home to Germany this week after six years playing in the UK.
People called him the Big Friendly German and that was absolutely correct, with Stucki being one of football’s gentlemen.