Consett seek support for academy and new stadium
CONSETT AFC Chairman Frank Bell is urging people in the town who back the proposed academy and stadium development to make their views known this week.
The club are hoping to move from their crumbling Belle Vue ground - their home for 62 years - to a new purpose-built Unibond-standard stadium less than a mile away, next to the Tesco's store, in time for the start of next season.
But first they need Durham County Council to grant planning permission for a new educational academy and sports centre on the site of their present ground off Ashdale Road.
The application has already fallen foul of planning red tape once, after objectors from the Consett Green Spaces group complained to the High Court that they hadn't been allowed to apply for village green status for the land outside the ground, which, if granted, would stop the development in its tracks.
But Bell believes the academy is badly needed in Consett to replace the outdated Blackfyne and Moorside schools, and he says the young people of the town will also benefit from a new football stadium if the club has to move to make way for the development.
"The academy in Stanley, just a few miles away, is almost finished, yet Consett's hasn't even started because a minority of people don't want a school on their doorstep," he said.
"Our belief is that many people who initially had reservations about it seem to be coming round to the idea - not least the parents of the 700 youngsters aged from six upwards who play for Consett's junior teams."
If the academy - and subsequently the new football ground - get the go-ahead, the idea is for the stadium to become a hub for the community, acting as a base for Consett Juniors, and available to hire for training and matches, and the off-the-field facilities could be hired for functions, meetings, etc.
However, the club needs the green light to be given to the academy before everything else falls into place, and Bell is urging supporters of the scheme to air their view at a meeting with planners from Durham County Council on Monday, October 22, at Blackfyne School, Durham Road, Blackhill, between 4-8pm.
"It is quite common for only those who have objections to attend such meetings," he said. "We believe these people are in the minority now, and need people who are positive about the plans to not only attend, but also complete a comment sheet.
"This is a perfect chance for everyone to make their own mind up, and get a good understanding what the future holds for everyone in Consett with regards to education and leisure facilities, including how it affects this football club.
"Should the academy scheme be approved and the build for our new ground finally be given the go-ahead, Consett AFC could be starting next season in a new, purpose-built stadium - something which is long-overdue. The pitch will be an all-weather one, and, as well as hosting first-team games, it will also create a wonderful hub for the whole community."
Anyone who is unable to make the meeting can also view the plans at Consett Library between Monday, October 22, and Monday, October 29, where there will be a facility to leave comments.
People can also send comments and feedback directly to the council by emailing: email@example.com
It is anticipated that the county council's highways committee will reconsider the village green application at its meeting on January 17 next year, and, if appropriate, the planning application will be considered at the planning committee on February 5.