Spectator stand at Southchurch Park gets approval despite legal concerns

A plan to build a new spectator stand at Southchurch Park has narrowly won planning approval despite a threat of legal action from residents.

The stand is set to be built for Southend Manor Football Club after the Football Association brought in new regulations that said there needs to be a covered area to watch the game.

However, the plans faced opposition from some residents who fear it will take over the playing field and violate legally binding agreements.

Speaking at the Development Control Committee on Wednesday evening, resident Pauline Lynam, warned the council should refuse the planning application to “avoid any legal challenge from Thorpe ward residents”.

The residents believe legal action will be possible because the planned height of the stand is around 12 foot, which is eight feet higher than a legal covenant that states “no barrier” higher than four feet can be built near properties.

At the meeting, Ms Lynam continued: “The base width for the stand is 10.1 metres, that is half the length of a cricket pitch. In total 30 square metre of our playing field will be destroyed and replaced by a lump of concrete.

“It doesn’t matter if the stand can be dismantled and moved, the concrete will remain.”

Speaking on behalf of the football club was Darren Munsey, who said: “This application will allow us to retain out 35-year league status in the Essex Senior League by meeting FA requirements.

“Failure to do so will result in the FA removing us from the Essex Senior League, putting the club’s future in doubt.”

He continued: “There is no evidence to suggest the application will have an adverse effect on car parking, noise and air pollution, wildlife or biodiversity.

“The stand is the smallest, most basic design available.”

Councillors were left split over whether to support the proposals, with Independent councillor Brian Ayling calling for the decision to be deferred due outstanding questions about the boundary of the development and whether it is true the stand is an FA requirement.

Labour councillor Daniel Cowan said the application had been “underhand” as there is no reason in planning law to reject it but it could lead to a further planning application for a “permanent boundary” which could result in “permanently closing off a public green space”.

When it came to the vote, the deferral proposal was narrowly defeated and planning permission was approved.

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Mick Ferris

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