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Developers start work on stadium plan for Witton Albion, but haven't told the club about it
DEVELOPERS behind a proposal to build homes in a Northwich village have promised to pay for a new football stadium close to the town’s centre.
A consortium for the Wincham Urban Village project, which includes a plan for more than 1,000 new houses, wants to use land on which Witton Albion’s Help for Heroes Stadium is built.
It has drawn up a specification for a replacement stadium already, but without talking to the club about its content.
“We’re surprised, that’s for sure,” said Witton vice chairman Mark Harris.
“Nobody has picked up the phone to ask the club what it thinks, so there appears to be an assumption that we will move come what may.
“I can assure our supporters that we’ll make our own mind up on that one, rather than have it done for us.”
Emery Planning Partnership (EPP), advising the housing development’s backers Gladedale and Russell Homes, has told Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) what it thinks a new football facility for Witton would look like.
In a letter, EPP director Alison Freeman says the stadium should be a similar distance to Northwich town centre as Albion’s Wincham home.
It must also be close to a public transport route.
An all-weather training pitch, with floodlights, will be added alongside a 4,000 capacity – including 500 seats – venue.
“It is true that direct talks between the club and EPP have not occurred,” said Helen Leggett, a consultant at EPP.
“However discussions have taken place in the past between the club and the development consortium.
“Should a future agreement be reached with Witton to relocate the club, then the specific details of a new facility will be agreed prior to it being built.”
EPP say that will happen in the next decade, giving it time to find an alternative site.
The developers have told CWAC they are happy for conditions to be attached to any future planning permission that forces them to build a replacement ground for Witton before a spade is put into the ground on the six-acres plot Albion currently call home.
Those conditions could also include a list of criteria a new stadium should satisfy.
Mr Harris replied that Witton will not be bullied into moving.
He added: “The specification for a stadium is simply a list of their ideas, not ours.
“We can do nothing to stop such documents being drawn up, but it seems an odd way to go about things when we’ve not even agreed to sell our existing ground.”
Sport England, a body that must be consulted on planning applications that affect sporting provision, has hinted that it will object the consortium’s proposal until more is known about a new stadium for Witton.
“There is no detail on any replacement facility or sites included as part of the application,” said Sport England planning manager Stephen Hughes.
“However the commitment to find a new home for Witton Albion is welcomed, even though there is no indication as to where it may be located.”
Meanwhile Witton will continue to work on a plan to improve practice pitch provision at its Wincham address.
Last summer, Mr Harris told fans that the club had started work on a proposal to upgrade its existing training space to an all-weather surface.
He said: “Our focus remains upon the development of what we have already, and how that can move the club forward.”