Canterbury City FC chairman Tim Clark has accused councillors of using “hollow words” after failing to secure planning permission for a new home ground in Bridge.
City council planners rejected the £125 million sports and leisure complex which included a new home for Canterbury Rugby Club plus 175 holiday homes and other facilities including a business park at Highland Court.
The scheme was rejected for numerous reasons including loss of farmland, increased noise and traffic and the impact it would have had on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Canterbury City FC has been without a permanent home since the council sold its Kingsmead Ground in 1999 to redevelop the site for housing.
Following Tuesday night’s meeting of the planning committee, Mr Clark said: “It was disappointing is to once again hear the hollow words from local councillors about the great work the football – and rugby club – does but not to match those words with any form of action.
“The council pocketed £14 million from the sale of Kingsmead Stadium -matched with a clear promise to find Canterbury City FC a new home. Having taken the money and run, I do believe that our councillors should feel a sense of shame about the shabby way they have treated a local sports club.
“Perhaps even more worryingly at a time when more and more of our young people are obese or leading lifestyles without any sports participation at all it seems clear to me that at the highest level of our local council there is no coordinated strategy to get our youngsters locally engaged in sport.
“Again hollow words about the great work that both the football and rugby clubs undertake in the community, but no support for them from the council itself.”
The scheme was planned by developer Quinn Estates which insists that despite local objections, Highland Court is the most suitable location for the it.
Chairman Mark Quinn said: “Canterbury City Council’s Local Plan was clear in its vision – a dynamic and strong economy, support for local enterprise, developing the district’s tourism offer and enhancing the quality of life for residents. Our plans for Highland Court would have delivered on all these fronts.
“Over the last two years, we engaged extensively with local residents, stakeholders and businesses, resulting in a smaller, more compact scheme but no less exceptional and exciting in what it offers – and one which promised to be Canterbury’s exemplar and flagship.
“This development could only ever take place in this location. It is because of its idyllic setting in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, because of its under-utilised junction, because of its nationally significant cycle and walking routes that this scheme could only ever succeed here.”
But Mike Sole, a former Lib Dem city councillor who lives nearby, was among those who objected to the Highland Court plan.
Speaking on behalf of the Barham Downs Action Group, he said: “Hundreds of local residents have objected to this application.
“They wrote detailed, unique and personal letters highlighting planning objections to these plans.
“Loss of wildlife, massive increases in traffic through villages and on narrow country lanes, light pollution and air quality have all been mentioned.
“This site is not in your Local Plan. Any major development like this should be considered within the district as a whole when the impact on traffic, infrastructure and residents can be carefully reviewed.
“If the sports clubs need new homes to achieve their ambitions, our message is quite clear.
“This is not the right place and outside of the Local Plan consultation is not right time to be discussing it.”