Floodlights protest

October 04 2018

RESIDENTS opposing AEK -BOCO Football Club's expansion plans have shown they don't intend to back down.

Dozens of concerned homeowners turned up at a consultation event to make it clear the club's proposal for spectator stands, fencing and floodlights is unwelcome and will cause misery for people living near the site, particularly those in Tyler Close, Colthurst Drive, Greenbank Road and Kingsfield Lane.

The football club has now applied to South Gloucestershire Council for "landlord's permission" to seek planning permission for eight 15m high floodlights, 1.8m fencing and two covered stands for about 100 people. If this is agreed, the club can apply for planning consent and a further consultation will take place.

The club says it is unable to progress through the leagues unless its ground complies with the Football Association's "Standards for Step 6" which require improvements to their facilities.

Club bosses argue the impact would be minimal as the floodlights would only be switched on during Saturday match days and one midweek evening.

But during the consultation meeting resident Kim Madan told the Voice the club had now outgrown the site.

"The plans mean the club are going to be restricting use of the site for the community. A lot of people walk their dogs there and many others use it on a casual basis, especially in the summer. It's just not big enough for a stand, fencing and seating. It's not the right place."

Karen Jefferies said: "I'm not happy that an open space which was a play area for me and my children will not be there for my children.

"This development is not focussed on the children - it's for adults.

"There's already enough noise and disturbance; it's relentless. The football season finishes and then training starts. It can make it very difficult to use the field."

Rob Mittins said: "We support the youth team but not the ambitions the club has for the site - a site which is surrounded by houses. They need to take it to another location."

One Tyler Close resident, who asked not to be named, said: "They (the club) aren't good neighbours at all. They view us as a nuisance and don't like us walking past the clubhouse. What they say and what they do are two different things. They have now outgrown this ground."

Another Tyler Close resident, Caroline Ratchford, said the noise from the club was "horrendous".

"We moved to Tyler Close in 1987 and there were no football pitches. It was heaven and that's why we bought our house.

"If I want to sit in my garden, it's just like being in a pub with the constant babble. It happens during and after the game. A lot of neighbours can't have barbecues or have their grandchildren to stay because of the swearing.

"Of course there should be progress but it needs to be the right sort of progress."

Steve Ashlin (pictured), who overlooks the site in Tyler Close, said: "I've spoken to many people here and the common consensus is that the site is too small and too close to homes.

"A lot of people say they would not buy their house again if the plans are approved. People will find it difficult to sell their homes and there would be huge claims going in against the council. We will seek legal advice in this - it's not a threat; it's a reasonable thing to do."

The consultation meeting, held at Longwell Green Community Centre on September 25, attracted Hanham councillors Heather and John Goddard who felt the club was doing a good job supporting youngsters.

Cllr John Goddard said: "BOCO do a positive job and keep 600 children off the streets and away from creating anti-social behaviour. The club also does a better job in maintaining the site than the council could do."

Cllr Heather Goddard said: "Do you put 600 children on the streets or keep that fantastic facility? It's all about balance. If the club went, the site wouldn't be an asset. The grass would only be cut twice a year and there would be dog poo everywhere. It could easily go to rack and ruin."

Hanham councillor June Bamford was also in attendance but her position as chair of the council's east planning committee means she is unable to comment on the proposals.

The consultation process didn't get off to the best start when residents living within 600 metres of the site received a survey through the post which contained no covering letter.

The council apologised for the blunder and sent out covering letters which included an invite to the consultation meeting on September 25. However the council said they would not extend the deadline of September 21 for responses to be returned.

At the 11th hour, the council had a change of heart and sent out a further letter saying the consultation would now stay open until Friday October 5.