THE season has only just started but Southampton Football Club has already won an important victory by securing permanent approval for part of its training ground in Marchwood.
The Premier League outfit applied to New Forest District Council after the expiry of five-year permission granted in 2013 for the site at Parks Farm in Long Lane, next to its well established Staplewood facility.
The bid was complicated by the fact that the land had previously been allocated by NFDC for 100 homes, of which 70 would be much-needed affordable units.
However, in the new draft Local Plan, which contains development policies outside the national park until 2036, the site has been removed as space for housing, so the club can keep its operations there.
The 6.6 hectares contain six pitches which are used mainly for youth football. It is next to the club’s giant 8.6-hectare Staplewood training ground where the elite players train and which already has permanent permission.
The Parks Farm bid sparked four objections from neighbours unhappy about the extra noise and traffic they said was generated by activity there.
Marchwood Parish Council backed the plan but only after Saints had dropped an attempt to delete conditions controlling maintenance and use of pitches, originally imposed to protect the peace and quiet of nearby residents.
NFDC granted permission with a report saying that while there was “unmet housing need”, other sites had been identified for homes and the loss was outweighed by the facility’s “socio-economic and environmental benefits”.
It added: “The proposal would have no adverse impact upon adjoining amenity or the local highway network, subject to conditions.”
Ten conditions include approval of floodlighting controls, wildlife protection, road access and limitations on use of a youth pitch next to Marchwood Cottage to between 10am and 5pm.
Saints’ application said: “The proposed development would result in the continued delivery of a high-quality football training ground which primarily caters for youth teams.
“Furthermore, the council has previously acknowledged there is limited scope to locate facilities elsewhere, away from the site in the Marchwood area.”
It added: “The application would not have an adverse effect on neighbouring properties by virtue of outlook or loss of privacy or general noise and disturbance.”
A decision had been due in January but was only taken last month due to NFDC having to wait for the finalisation of its draft Local Plan.