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Club must play by the rules, court told

PUBLISHED: 15:29 16 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010

IPSWICH TOWN'S postponed legal match with a local woman, who is challenging the legal status of the new North Stand at the club's Portman Road stadium, finally kicked off today at London's High Court.

IPSWICH TOWN'S postponed legal match with a local woman, who is challenging the legal status of the new North Stand at the club's Portman Road stadium, finally kicked off today at London's High Court.

But, unlike judge Mr Justice Harrison, who declared himself to be a fan of bitter local rivals Norwich City at last month's cancelled hearing, new judge Mr Justice Sullivan declared no allegiance to either side!

The case has come before a second judge because Mr Justice Harrison's busy schedule meant that he could not hear the two-day case on July 26 and 27 and give an immediate judgement, which Ipswich claims is urgently required.

Now, the club is hoping Mr Justice Sullivan will give a ruling, probably tomorrow in the planning battle, in which local resident Rose Malster, of Alderman Road, Ipswich, about 50 metres from the ground, is challenging the borough council's approval of a replacement North Stand at Portman Road.

On May 4, the council granted planning permission to Ipswich Town to demolish its old north stand, which seated 3,363 and replace it with a two-tier stand, which will hold 7,035.

The club has already knocked down the old stand, and started work on the new one, and the project is expected to cost £2,735,702 to build.

Ms Malster claims she is concerned that the size and proximity of the structure will have a severe impact on the light reaching houses in the area, including her own, and that the increased capacity will lead to greater nuisance form fans.

She argues that the council failed to properly comply with its obligations, under European rules, to conduct an environmental impact assessment before granting permission.

She also claims that the council should have considered the issue of floodlights before granting permission, rather than leaving the matter to form part of a separate palling application. This separate floodlight application if granted, may be subject to further legal challenge.

Opening the case today, her lawyer, Eleanor Sharpston QC said: "This is not an anti-football case. It is a case where we say that even in the Premiership one plays by the rules.

"We say the rules here merited that an environmental impact assessment should have been held. That would have enabled a balanced view to be taken as to the adverse impact, which we say is a clear one, from the proposed North Stand."

The club claims that the council acted properly in deciding that an environmental impact assessment was not required, and that in any event Ms Malster has failed to bring her challenge to the planning permission promptly enough.

It claims that any delay to the new stand caused by this legal action will prejudice it unfairly. It argues that, after last season's Premiership success, and with the return of European football to Portman Road this season, it needs the extra seats to cater for increased demand.

The case, which is expected to last two days, continues.

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