pitch battle over homes

Aylsham could end up with more football pitches than a top club in the national game, according to people worried about the scale of a major homes and sports facilities plan near where they live.

But there could be good news on the horizon for objectors with the revelation that a planned sewage treatment plant may not need to be built as part of the development, which is backed by Aylsham Town Council.

A group of householders living near the proposed Youngs site, west of St Michael's Hospital, aired a long list of concerns about the scheme during a meeting with Broadland MP Keith Simpson.

Cathy Warnock, one of the objectors, said they had been worried when they thought the plan for 250 homes also included nine football pitches, but horrified when closer inspection revealed that there would actually be 10.

'That's more than Old Trafford has got – they've only got nine for everything,' said Ms Warnock, of St Michael's Avenue. 'The number of pitches they want has gobsmacked people.'

A check by the News with top-flight Manchester Utd, whose home ground is Old Trafford, found that the club actually has 19 pitches but a spokesman for Championship club Norwich City said they only used a maximum of nine for games and training.

Ms Warnock, of St Michael's Avenue, said while some residents wanted pitches, others might prefer some other leisure provision as part of the deal. And she questioned how many of those using the pitches would actually live in Aylsham.

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A petition objecting to the plans had been signed by 125 people who either lived near the application site or would be within earshot of it.

The site lay outside Aylsham's development boundary and would be 'out on a limb' to the south-west.

Nearby residents were also unhappy at plans for the sewage treatment plant which was only 100m from the nearest property and could cause smells throughout the area, she said.

Concerns also included lack of consultation, noise and floodlighting, and the possible 'urbanisation' of part of the Marriott's Way path which could be hard-surfaced and lit to make travel safer from town to the site for walkers and cyclists.

Mr Simpson had promised to raise their concerns with Broadland District Council, according to Ms Warnock.

But Mark Nolan, director of plan architects Chaplin Farrant, said he expected to hear shortly that Anglian Water would be taking over responsibility for a sewage treatment works at former RAF Coltishall currently owned by the Ministry of Justice. If the deal went ahead there would be no need for the planned works at Aylsham as sewage from the development would be dealt with at Coltishall.

Mr Nolan added that only two of the planned football pitches were full-sized and the total number and use would be dictated by the age groups and teams needing them.

Aylsham Football Club presently had 17 teams but aspired to have 29. It had already lost some players because of a lack of pitches and its successful ladies' teams especially needed better facilities.

He also pointed out that the St Michael's Avenue homes had been outside Aylsham's development boundary at the time they were approved.

Aylsham needed to grow, said Mr Nolan. The Youngs' scheme allowed for 75 affordable homes and included community benefits such as the permanent gift of 20 acres of land to Aylsham for sporting use, �500,000 to kickstart facilities, �300,000 to maintain landscaped areas, and allotment spaces.

Landowners William Youngs and his brother Nick, father of England rugby star Ben Youngs, were passionate about sport and wanted to provide something which would benefit their community.

*This evening Aylsham Town Council is due to discuss a plan by Welbeck Strategic Land for up to 300 homes and the transfer of land for development as a family sports village on land north of Sir Williams Lane.