Government to decide fate of Sunderland’s football academy plans

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THE Government is to decide if Sunderland AFC’s plan to extend its training facilities can proceed.

The Premiership club has submitted a revised planning application for an indoor training facility and outdoor synthetic floodlit pitch on land to the north of the Academy of Light in Whitburn Moor, Cleadon.

When members of South Tyneside’s planning committee meet next week they will be recommended to refer the bid to the Secretary of State.

It had originally been thought the application would face little opposition.

An earlier expansion plan for an indoor facility was granted approval after a series of public consultation meetings.

But the club says a floodlit pitch now needs to be added to that expansion scheme to meet latest Premier League standards.

And the revised bid – particularly the floodlit element – has prompted concerns from several homeowners in Cleadon, who have voiced fears over the potential negative impact on the Conservation Area.

It is claimed that light from the floodlit pitch will spoil the night-time views for residents living near to the site.

Objector Anne Turvill, of Moor Lane, Cleadon, says she feels “let down by the Academy”.

She said: “Bit by bit, they are encroaching on Green Belt land.

“The floodlights will be clearly be seen from Sunderland Road and Moor Lane.

“It will have the same impact as the floodlights at, say, Sunderland Greyhound Stadium.”

Mrs Turvill added: “I strongly object to the lighting that is proposed. It is light pollution.”

The club says both pitches are crucial to meet the needs of the Premier league’s Elite Player Performance Plan, aimed at improving player development.

The Academy of Light was officially opened in March 2003, replacing the outdoor training area at the Charley Hurley Centre.

It serves as a training facility for both the Sunderland Youth Academy and for the professional squad.

A club spokesman said: “Both the indoor and outdoor surface will sit within the footprint of the original design. Accordingly a revised planning application has been submitted to the planning committee.”

The report to the planning committee says: “The council cannot immediately approve the application, it must refer the application to the Secretary of State to see if he wished to ‘call-in’ the application for determination.

“The referral to the Secretary of State must include whether the planning committee is minded to grant the application.”

A council source predicted it was likely that committee members would call for a site visit before making a decision on the application.

The planning committee is to meet from 10am on Monday in the committee suite, at South Shields Town Hall.

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