Plans for 5,000-seat Gloucestershire football stadium refused against officer advice

Councillors in Stroud have turned down plans for a new 5,000-seat wooden football stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects against the advice of planners.

A visualisation of the rejected stadium in Stroud. Image by Forest Green Rovers
A visualisation of the rejected stadium in Stroud. Image by Forest Green Rovers

A meeting of Stroud District Council’s development control committee this week went against the officer's recommendation of approval and voted to refuse the all-timber Eco Park proposal.

The revised outline application would have provided a new 5,000 capacity stadium, plus practice facilities and car parking for Forest Green Rovers Forest Club.

The officer’s report that went to councillors said: "The proposed development does give rise to a conflict with the development plan. However, on balance the benefits that the proposals will deliver are considered to outweigh the negatives."

The proposals were for the development of part of a 39.5 hectare site near to junction 13 of the M5 in Gloucestershire.

The officer’s report said that the negatives included harm to the landscape as well as "sky glow" when floodlights were being used.

In addition, officers said there would be an impact on nearby listed buildings, although this would be less than substantial.

The report said the site is located in the countryside outside settlement limits defined in the council’s local plan, meaning that it was in contravention with local planning policy.

In addition, it "does not currently relate well to the settlement hierarchy", although it would be adjacent to land allocated for mixed use development.

The fact that it features in an emerging strategy paper as part of a local plan review published in November held limited weight in the decision, the report said.

However, the benefits included boosts for the local economy from construction, operation and tourism.

In addition, social benefits would flow from encouraging increased interest and participation in football, officers added.

Finally, the low carbon technology employed in the design of the stadium were accompanied by ecological enhancements.

Planning asked the council for the formal reasons for refusal but was still awaiting a reply at the time of publication.

Ward councillor Stephen Davis, who does not sit on the committee, told Planning: "Officers acknowledged that the scheme is in breach of local plan policy but argued that this was outweighed by the benefits.

"The committee gave it thorough consideration and came to the conclusion that there was limited community benefit, and overturned the recommendation to approve."

However, the council's leader, Doina Cornell, said: "I am disappointed that some councillors did not see all of the bigger picture and voted against it.

"A lot of work went in to the report which recommended approval, and explained the benefits of the development for the local area and district as a whole."

Writing on Facebook club chairman Dale Vince said: "So, Stroud District Council decided not to approve Eco Park. Strange ... when the councillors needed help to work out why they had turned it down."

Earlier this week, the High Court overturned planning permission for an already-built sports stadium in the green belt at Walton on Thames in Surrey, meaning the development could potentially now face demolition.

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