Football ground refurbishment carried out without planning permission approved retrospectively

The refurbishment of a football ground in Billericay has been given planning permission, despite its new pitch, stands and floodlights having already been built.

Basildon Council approved a retrospective planning application for the refurbishment of Billericay Town Football Club, including a new artificial pitch, stands seating more than 1,000 people and eight 15m high floodlights.

This comes after a turbulent few years, during which the club changed hands and the previous grass pitch was vandalised.

According to council documents, the previous owners continued working on the site whilst their application was being progressed, and were unresponsive to requests for additional information.

But the new owners, who took over in 2019, were more co-operative in providing the information needed for a successful application, the documents continue.

Managing director of BTFC Alex Morrisey said at a planning meeting last night (December 15) a consortium took over the club after the previous owner walked out.

The council then informed the new owners of issues with the buildings in January 2020. For example, they did not have a safety certificate, although this has now been obtained.

Additionally, vandals broke into the grounds and drove cars over the pitch shortly after the takeover, according to reporting by the Echo.

Mr Morrisey also said the club had lost ten home games and £150,000 in revenue.

He told the meeting: “We’ve worked with the council for nine months.”

“We’re very keen to make sure everything down at the club is done correctly.”

Initially wary of construction work being started before planning approval, Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South-East) welcomed the proposals.

He said: “You have actually given some great reasons for why that is the case and actually I think we should thank you to a degree for stepping in and actually saving a community asset”.

However, councillors and officers agreed to a future review of lighting at the grounds to ensure the club was meeting council requirements, after a local resident raised concern about its intrusion into his houses.

Cllr Rimmer said: “It does sound like a shocking level of luminance that the member of the public is having to put up with, if several of his rooms are actually, he’s not turning on a light and he’s able to read a newspaper in there.”

The works constitute phase 2 of the redevelopment, with phase 1 having been given planning permission in 2018.

Phase 2 also consists of storage, toilets, a tea hut and turnstiles.

The ground is owned by the council and leased to the club, according to council documents.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter