Plans to double the number of pitches at a football centre could be given the go-ahead, despite more than 100 objections and concerns over parking issues.
The Russell Foster Football Centre in Houghton-le-Spring has applied to Sunderland City Council to create six more pitches and extend its opening hours.
Due to historic issues around off-site matchday parking on Stadon Way, calls have been made for the centre to scrap its ‘voluntary donation’ car parking scheme to encourage customers to park at the centre.
The £1.8million centre was officially opened in 2011 by Sunderland-born England midfielder Jordan Henderson and the Football Association’s director of development at the time, Sir Trevor Brooking.
The facility is used at weekends by Russell Foster Youth League teams, with pitches available for schools and other teams on weekdays.
The new plans aim to change Monday to Friday pitch use times from 1.30pm-3.30pm to 8am-9pm – excluding bank holidays.
Weekend hours could also be extended to 9am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday, from 8.30am-2pm and 9am-2pm respectively.
Despite a 662-name petition in support of the plans, 101 objectors have listed concerns over the new pitches, citing potential parking issues for nearby residents.
This includes centre users parking on nearby roads, along with concerns about noise, litter, anti-social behaviour, impact on wildlife and lack of consultation with residents.
A statement from Northumbria Police, published in a council report, notes previous parking-related complaints linked to football matches.
They add a “sensible option” would be for the centre’s owners to remove the car parking charge as a “goodwill gesture to their neighbours”, to help alleviate parking on Stadon Way.
If this cannot be achieved, the council’s network management department adds, waiting restrictions are recommended for nearby areas in the form of a ‘traffic regulation order’.
This could cover Stadon Way and other residential streets, costing the council £8,000, with the applicant footing the bill for for signing and markings.
While the centre’s existing 350 parking spaces can deal with all 12 pitches being in use at once, concerns remain about how this will be managed.
The centre’s proposals – which are recommended for approval – also include extended opening hours for an administration office and classroom between 8am-9pm, Monday-Sunday.
If they are given the go-ahead, several conditions will be put in place to monitor the development.
This includes onsite car parking being available at all times during opening hours, and a noise management plan being submitted one month after the 12 pitches are brought into use.
An assessment carried out on behalf of the applicant claims that noise from the increased traffic generated by the additional pitches would have a “insignificant impact”.
Members of the council’s area development control committee will make the final decision on June 5 at Sunderland Civic Centre, at 5.45pm.
For more information on the proposals, visit: www.sunderland.gov.uk.
Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service