Doubtless many of you have been upset by the recent withdrawal of Whyteleafe Football Club Men’s Team from the Isthmian League. The Club has been at the Football Ground in Church Road for 60 years and the Village Councillors recognise how devastating this must be for all involved in the Club. At the time of writing, we understand that the Women’s team are still able to utilise the Ground for training and matches which we are pleased to see.
There have been a number of press releases and extensive comments on social media from all those involved including IRAMA, the new owners of the Ground.
There has also been some speculation about the intentions of IRAMA to set up a football academy but there are also concerns that the Ground could be used, in future, for the building of flats. Although, at this time, I must stress that no such planning application has been made.
Immediately on hearing of the withdrawal of the Leafe from the Football League and on reading the various press releases, the Village Council held an extraordinary meeting on 28th June to discuss the matter and agree an appropriate response on behalf of the residents of Whyteleafe Village.
At the meeting, Councillors confirmed that, within the Caterham Chaldon and Whyteleafe Neighbourhood Plan, the Football Ground has Local Green Space designation (details via the Neighbourhood Plan website: www.ccwnp.org.uk). The Neighbourhood Plan was adopted by Tandridge District Council in June and now forms a key element of the Planning Authority’s policies and how its officers will assess future planning applications.
The protection offered through a Local Green Space designation is similar to that of the Green Belt. The National Planning Policy Framework (Feb 2019) states the following about Local Green Spaces and this illustrates why the Football Ground qualifies:
- Where the green space is in reasonably close proximity to the community it serves.
- Where the green area is demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example, because of its beauty, historic significance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of its wildlife.
- Where the green area concerned is local in character and is not an extensive tract of land.
National Planning guidelines therefore give Local Green Spaces a high level of protection from inappropriate development.
Following discussions, the Village Councillors resolved two separate actions of:
- To invite the owners to meet with Village Councillors to discuss their intentions given the site’s designation as Local Green Space;
- To prepare a nomination form to Tandridge District Council (TDC) seeking the registration of the Football Ground as an ‘Asset of Community Value’.
These two actions should hopefully enable the Football Ground’s owners (IRAMA) and the Village Council to come to a common understanding on the future of the site.
Furthermore, if the site is accepted by TDC as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, the Village Council will have secured the opportunity, if the Ground were to be put up for sale in future, to consider purchasing the Ground on behalf of the community. A limited period of time would be given to the Council to consult with residents and, if appropriate, to secure funding.
We hope these actions will enable IRAMA and the Village Council to work together for the common good of the village and its residents.
Dr. Marcus Jones, Chairman, Whyteleafe Village Council