WESTWARD Ho! Tennis Club s plan for a new ï¿½2.5 million multi-sports centre at Silford, Northam, has been refused by district planners by the narrowest of margins. Torridge District Council s planning committee members were equally divided when they met on
WESTWARD Ho! Tennis Club's plan for a new ï¿½2.5 million multi-sports centre at Silford, Northam, has been refused by district planners by the narrowest of margins.
Torridge District Council's planning committee members were equally divided when they met on Thursday and it was left to the casting vote of the chairman Cllr Hugo Barton to reject the application.
The controversial proposal saw Northam Town Council offices packed to overflowing with sports supporters and objecting local residents, with representatives of both sides given opportunities to express their views.
The tennis club's plan was for a multi-sports centre comprising four internal and four external tennis courts, three squash courts, two sports/gymnasium/ recreational rooms, a viewing area, lounge, meeting room, refreshment areas and car parking on a site some half-mile from the centre of Northam.
Prior to the meeting the council had received 260 representations regarding the application, 180 letters of support, 49 of objection and 31 considered neutral.
Northam Town Council had recommended refusal.
Torridge council officers recommended approval. Although it constituted a departure from the development plan, they considered that the proposal was acceptable as it would provide enhanced community recreational facilities not impacting unreasonably on its surroundings or highway safety.
But, in their close vote, the Torridge planning committee members rejected the application on the grounds that it was contrary to policies regarding development in the open countryside and the need to protect the 'rural gap.'
Andy Lobato,chairman of Westward Ho! Tennis club's development committee, said he was disappointed.
"We will now have to go back to members and decide where we go from here," he said. "There are a number of options - whether we appeal against this decision,look for an alternative site or consider the scale of the development. This project has been carried out in a fully transparent way throughout and it must be up to members to decide."
They had been working on the project for five years and had considered a whole range of sites in the area, he said. It had taken this long to find a site with which officers, highways and environmental authorities were happy.
When they went out to public consultation last year 82 per cent of respondents had opted for the Silford site, he said.
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