A BID for a new home for Grays Athletic Football Club on green belt land has been narrowly approved reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
Just four councillors were able to vote on an application for Grays, which has been without a home for 13 years, to take over the former Thurrock Football Club in Ship Lane, Aveley. With two for the application and two against, chairman of Thurrock Council’s planning committee used his deciding vote to approve the scheme.
A car preparation plant on the site was approved in July, and includes Grays FC being gifted the stadium by joint applicant with the club, Group 1 Automotive.
Planning officers had advised up to 30 jobs could be created on the site but this and other considerations did not amount to sufficient reason to build on the green belt.
Conducting the planning meeting on Thursday, chairman, Tom Kelly, said: “We know the council’s hit financial difficulty and we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of businesses rates coming into the council.
“We have come out of a pandemic and currently the country’s debt is 100 per cent and it’s not been that bad since World War Two so we do need to encourage jobs, investment and we do need to get those debt levels down.”
Lee Watson, Labour councillor for West Thurrock and Stifford, said the 23 to 30 high-skilled jobs were not sufficient reason to put the plant with 1,224 car parking spaces “slap bang on the green belt with the Mardyke running by side and right on top of the junction 31.”
She added: “Business rates do not feature in a planning application. It’s nothing to do with it and shouldn’t be taken into consideration. I will be voting against this. This is detrimental to our green belt. This is detrimental to the Mardyke, it does flood and is also a cushion to the M25.”
Paul Arnold, Conservative councillor for Ockendon support this application with this level of destruction of the green belt for very little added benefit to the borough. Although it does create 30 odd jobs which is most welcome, for the level of destruction of the green belt I cannot warrant the scale of car parking for such a low level of jobs. I’m quite appalled by this. I think it’s one step too far.”
Georgette Polley, Conservative councillor for Belhus, supported the application saying there would be more support jobs and it would increase sports facilities and healthy activity in the borough.
The decision will be referred to the secretary of state for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for a final decision.