SWINDON Town’s plans for a £6m training facility in Highworth have been given the green light.
Club owner Lee Power’s application for a purpose-built complex on the old Twelve Oaks Golf Club site in Lechlade Road was approved last night by Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee.
It will also include top-class training facilities for racehorses.
The plan had been opposed by Highworth Town Council, which felt the town’s own grassroots club would be impacted and has fears over toxic waste.
The complex – taking up 12 of the gold course’s 22 hectares – will feature a purpose-built training centre, gymnasium and offices, eight grass training pitches and a full-size all-weather floodlit pitch. The existing clubhouse will become the players’ restaurant.
Alongside Mr Power applied for permission to construct a horse-training complex with 20 stables, an American barn with 30 horseboxes and hay store, an all-weather gallop, horse walker, lunge pit and paddocks, a car park and accommodation for stable hands.
The club’s agent Amanda Loftus told members of the committee that using the facilities would save the club the £70,000 a year it pays to use three different training venues now. One of those is at Beversbrook in Calne – 16 miles from the County Ground – and Ms Loftus said the new complex would save on emissions.
She said: “We are dedicated to ensure this facility becomes an asset to Swindon as a whole.”
But Highworth ward councillor Alan Bishop told the committee: “The local football club Highworth Town FC had been told it wouldn’t receive Sport England funding for a second all-weather pitch they’ve been saving for in the town if this one is constructed.”
He said the previous owner of the site had brought in truckloads of what he called “toxic waste” to build up the land and added: “When they take the turf off, I dread to think what will be found.
“Damage limitation is vital.”
Ms Loftus said the club would be willing to work with Highworth Town Council and the town’s football club on any issues.
The club had removed floodlighting from its plans. This had caused concern among neighbours because it said the operation of the complex would not be affected.
Trudy Murphy of Highworth Town Council asked the committee to refuse the application on the grounds that floodlighting could be added easily later.
Old Town councillor Nick Burns Howell said he supported the application and felt adding conditions that floodlighting would need a specific new planning approval and another asking for community use of the facilities would address those problems.
The application was passed with only Coun Bishop voting against.
The linked application for a training facility for horses – which is partly retrospective with some of the barns already built – would see 10 hectares on the western side of the golf course site used.
It would be used to train Mr Power’s own racehorses.
Members of the committee were worried by a letter sent in by the owners of Crouch Farm a smaller livery business on land which would abut the racehorse training site.
Crouch Farm said galloping horses would frighten horses being walked on the path between the two businesses.
Although the committee voted unanimously to approve Mr Power’s proposal they added conditions on reducing the impact on Crouch Farm.