Clarets training ground plans cause eco-concerns

How the Gawthorpe training facility will look when complete
How the Gawthorpe training facility will look when complete

Ambitious plans to upgrade Burnley Football Club’s Gawthorpe training facilities are set to be approved tonight, despite opposition from a raft of wildlife and heritage groups.

The Turf Moor outfit has submitted plans to create a new indoor football pitch and other facilities which it says will allow the club to attract better quality youth players from around the country.

But the plans, which are on Green Belt land next to historic Gawthorpe Hall, have been opposed by the RSPB, the Ribble Rivers Trust, Burnley Wildlife Forum, the East Lancashire Ornithologists Club and the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire who say the development would destroy the habitat for several species of birds and amphibians and increase the risk of flooding.

If passed, the site would see the construction of a new indoor training facility that would meet the requirements for Academy Grade Two status, new first team and academy training buildings and three new pitches.

Burnley councillors will discuss the plans at tonight’s Development Control Committee meeting and planning officers, in a detailed report, are recommending that councillors approve them.

The National Trust as well as local residents have said that views of the Elizabethan Hall would be affected.

A National Trust report said: “The changes will be apparent in important views from Gawthorpe Hall and grounds, and in long range views back to Gawthorpe, with the new building mass competing with the dominance of Gawthorpe in views towards the site.

The club currently has planning permission to alter or extend and build an indoor pitch on the current site, but this would leave no spare capacity to keep up with the changing face of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan.

A spokesman for the club said: “Going forward this is an absolutely critical piece of work for the club.

“It’s great to have a nice stadium, but for the players their place of work is the training ground so we need to give them the best opportunities for training and development and that includes enhancing the sports science provisions up there.

“The development of the 60m. x 40m. indoor facility will also help us get the Academy to Category Two, which again helps to take the club forward in attracting young players. “All in all this is a vital development that we need to pursue.”

The planning application would see the new building constructed on the opposite side of the current bridge that crosses the River Calder, on land that is currently owned by the football club. Access would be via the bridge.

A Lancashire County Council ecologist identified the site and wider area as being of high ecological value.

The ecologist’s report said the proposal could have a potential impact on a number of bird species, barn owls, bats and amphibians including the protected Great Crested Newt.

Burnley wildlife Forum says it has serious concerns due to the effect the proposals would have on the marshland wildlife habitat on the River Calder floodplain field. The field is part of Grove Lane marsh which constitutes the only remaining semi-natural marshy grassland habitat along the whole of the Calder floodplain.

Padiham Community Action and local residents have also expressed fears that the proposal could increase the risk of flooding to homes and buildings down the river.