PLANS to expand Stockton Town Football Club have been approved, despite more than 100 objections.
The Bishopton Road West club will now erect a 200-seat stand, floodlighting, artificial turf pitch, pay booth, changing facilities and toilet and refreshment areas.
The £700,000 scheme is the latest improvement at the expanding club, which moved to its current premises at a cost of £1.4m in 2008.
Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee approved the plans on Wednesday, June 18, despite the written objections which will give the club adequate facilities to play in a higher league.
Objectors complained there was already foul language and noise while matches are played, sometimes late at night. In addition, they said there would be light pollution, traffic problems and the levels of support for the main team, currently only about 100 people per match, were likely to increase.
A summary of objections was issued to councillors at the meeting in the planning report.
It said: “The submission states that one of the primary reasons that the facility is required is to ensure long term sustainability. In reality it would appear to be about going up a league rather than sustainability in its current form.
“Clearly the ambitions of Stockton Town Football Club (STFC) are to progress up the pyramid and gain promotion. However, the current site has its limitations. Surely a different site, away from residential areas should be considered now.”
However, there were also 27 letters of support. A summary of the supportive opinions said: “Average crowds for Northern League games are fewer than 150 and, assuming the club qualify (for the Northern League), these would be only for a couple of hours a week. It is 50 years since the town of Stockton had an adult football team playing the top leagues of North-East football. This development is necessary to help return to those days.”
STFC had applied to be able to open the pitch and turn on floodlights until 10pm but the council has imposed a condition that the facility closes at 9pm in the week and 5pm at weekends. However the natural turf pitch will be allowed to be used until 10pm two nights per week.
The Football Association (FA) had said that a proposal to close at 8pm “would be a deal breaker for FA investment meaning that this community facility would not go ahead.”
STFC currently leases land off the council to the rear of Our Lady and St Bede’s School but must share the playing fields with nearby schools and colleges.
The club was founded in 1979 under its previous name of Hartburn Juniors. It has 19 teams, including many junior teams. The club’s main adult team plays in the Wearside League.