U's training ground given go-ahead

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal for a new training ground complex for Colchester United has been given the go-ahead at the third attempt.

James Hore

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal for a new training ground complex for Colchester United has been given the go-ahead at the third attempt.

The high-flying League One club has been given permission to build the new facility in the village of Tiptree, a move which was opposed by many residents.

The U's have said the complex of five training pitches, with one for community use, and a clubhouse will create jobs for local companies during construction and long-term employment on site.

It was the third time the club had applied for planning permission and it had been set to take a previous refusal to appeal.

But last night, John Elliot, chairman of Tiptree Parish Council, said he felt as though the borough council had been “blackmailed” by the threat of a costly appeal against the earlier rejection.

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Colchester United chairman, Robbie Cowling, said he was pleased that the complex had “finally” been given the green-light by Colchester Borough Council's planning committee.

“I am pleased that we have finally been granted planning permission for the training ground”, he told the club's website.

The U's do not have a permanent base for training and use various venues including the pitches at Essex University - something that team manager, Aidy Boothroyd, said was damaging potential for progress.

He said previously: “You can work all of your training programmes around one venue and the consistency of having a routine and working in one place it invaluable to players.

“At the moment, we are a bit inconsistent in where we are and if we can progress to that new venue, we will be in great shape.

“There are a lot of clubs out there with great facilities and I would say that this football club is below its undoubted potential until we get our training ground.”

The club had gone back to the drawing board with its original proposal for the Grange Road site after it was rejected amid concerns it was a “Trojan horse” for a major housing development.

Mr Elliot, who is also a Colchester borough councillor, said: “It is a shame really - unfortunately as much as there is supposed to be some gain for Tiptree, I don't think there is as much as we would have liked.

“It seems that we have been blackmailed - why did it [the plan] come back up again when it was exactly the same as it was before when it was turned down?

“It is supposed to be a decision based on planning issues - not on what a successful appeal could cost the council.”

He said some people feared what would come next such as flood-lighting at the site and housing the surrounding area.