Planners have unanimously approved a new artificial pitch for Winchester City Football Club.

The scheme also includes floodlighting, new and relocated stands, storage container, vehicle access replacement and re-surfacing of the existing parking area.

Winchester City Council's planning committee permitted the plans, for The City Ground in Hillier Way, on Wednesday, November 15. 

The proposal was widely welcomed with 112 supporting comments. It also received 10 objections. 

In the planning officer's report, it said: “The benefits of the development are compelling, proposed development is in accordance with the development plan and there are no material considerations of which would justify determining the application other than in accordance with the development plan. The application is therefore recommended for approval.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Council planning committee

The plan is for Winchester City FC and the Winchester City Flyers to use the facilities. The scheme has been in the pipeline for some time, with funding for it coming, in part, from Winchester City Council and the Football Foundation. The total cost is expected to be around £1m.

READ MORE: Winchester City FC reveals major plans for its ground

Winchester City FC currently plays in the Southern League Premier Division South after winning promotion in 2022.

Cllr Kathleen Becker, cabinet member for inclusion and engagement, said: “I'm strongly in favour of this. We want to create a habit of physical activity among young people. Facilities like this can help. 

“It will allow increased participation. Disability football requires an artificial pitch. Winchester City Flyers will also use the pitch. 

“There has been difficulty finding space for pitches across the district. Existing facilities are fully booked all the time. The proposal is really important.

“I urge you to support this.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Proposed works

John Mclaren, who is on Winchester City Football Club's board of directors, said: “We have around 800 youth players. You can't underestimate the impact team sport has on mental health. 

“Team sport makes young people confident.”

Janek Piatkowski said: “I've been a supporter for 25 years. The club has helped my mental health. I'm begging you to approve this.”

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The committee had some environmental concerns, but supported the application. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Current ground

Cllr Chris Edwards said: “I entirely get the social health, mental health and environmental benefits of this development to the people of Winchester. I have never played football myself, I don't come as a fan, so I think I can be very objective. There have been more than 100 letters of support for this application. 

“I think we should remember that this is the improvement of an existing facility. But there are some genuine concerns around noise and disruption to the neighbouring community which should be treated seriously. 

“I'm pleased to see we have conditioned a management plan which will limit the use of the pitch to particular hours. I'm very happy to support this.”

Cllr Brian Laming said: “I think this goes a long way to mitigate some of the problems people foresee. I know from experience that there is a huge shortage of all-weather pitches in Winchester and that needs to be addressed as best we can. 

“I have severe reservations about the material being used because I don't think it's the best thing for the environment. However, this project probably wouldn't succeed without the grants from the Football Association, so they can control the environmental issues we've got. 

“I understand that modern, environmentally friendly products will be more expensive, so we've got to balance it all out. On balance, this is a very good application.”

The committee permitted the scheme unanimously.