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Plans for a new Cambridge City FC stadium at Sawston have been approved

By Ben Comber

Artist impression of the Cambridge City FC Sawston football ground
Artist impression of the Cambridge City FC Sawston football ground

Councillors have thrown their weight behind Cambridge City FC's plans for a new stadium at Sawston, saying it would create fantastic new facilities for the community.

The proposals approved at the latest meeting of the council’s planning committee include a new stadium for the Lilywhites, along with a neighbouring artificial grass pitch and spectator area.

Councillors heard that the development will provide sporting facilities for many local teams, people and families, and bring forward extra recreational opportunities for the whole village of Sawston.

The committee also noted that 600 local people signed a petition in favour of the new stadium, with every signatory urging the council to “facilitate the proposal as soon as possible”.

Cllr Pippa Corney, chair of committee said: “We’re really pleased that the Lilywhites’ plans for a new home are now back on track.

“Since the original planning application was quashed, the committee has made increased efforts to clearly articulate reasons for making decisions that go against what officers are recommending to us, as was the case with this application.

“Their recommendation was quite right because there must be very special circumstances to allow development to take place within the green belt. However, the committee felt that the sports facilities that will be available to the local community will be so important and well-used, that this represented those very special circumstances necessary.

“Although this is of course welcome news, it’s important to recognise that there are still some obstacles to get past.

“This includes the mandatory referral of our decision to the Secretary of State because of the site’s location.”

Members were also told that the development will help provide extra sporting facilities to locals, particularly children, at a time when the promotion of healthy lifestyles is considered essential.

There is currently considered to be a shortfall of recreational space within Sawston, which this stadium and neighbouring pitch will help address.

Plans for a new stadium for Cambridge City FC were originally approved in April 2014. As the arena is proposed on green belt land, the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government had the option to “call in” this judgement and make the decision himself. This “call in” did not occur though, so the decision by councillors stood.

Initial construction work then began on the stadium, including levelling the site and removing some vegetation.

However, in February this year the decision to grant planning permission was quashed when the Court of Appeal ruled that councillors did not give clear enough reasons and detail the exceptional circumstances for allowing construction to take place on the green belt site, where a very high bar is set for the standard of any development.

This meant that the planning application has had to be reconsidered by the council, with members on the planning committee voting to approve it once again at their meeting today.

As the site remains on green belt land, this decision must again be referred to the Secretary of State, who will determine whether he is content with the plan, or if it will be subject to a “call in” process that could see him take the decision out of the council’s hands.


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