Elmbridge Sports Hub Walton-on-Thames
Elmbridge Sports Hub Waterside Drive Walton-On-Thames Surrey KT12 2JP
Back at the beginning of 2015 the Council proposed a new ‘Sports Hub’, next to the Xcel Leisure Complex in Walton-on-Thames, According to the Council, the development ‘will meet the growing aspirations of Walton and Hersham Football Club, Walton Casuals Football Club, Walton Casuals Junior Football Club and Walton Athletics Club, while also providing local sport fans with a premier sporting destination suitable for hosting high profile events.’
Planning permission was granted by Elmbridge Borough Council for the new sports hub at Waterside Drive, Walton-on-Thames on the 26 January 2016. This following an earlier deferral of the application to enable the preparation and submission of an Environmental Statement. This was required due to the previous use of the site for land fill.
As a result, an alternative remediation strategy has been agreed to deal more comprehensively with the cleaning up of the waste material beneath the surface due to the former land fill use. This includes excavation, screening and backfilling to safely prepare the site for the new sports facilities.
The strategy also includes a ‘Permeable Reactive Barrier’ to prevent contaminated ground water leaching to the River Thames and a ‘Virtual Curtain’ to control and filter gas migration.
The application has also been amended to introduce ‘landscape bunds’ around the edge of the site to create a green edge and screen the sports activities from wider views. There has also been an increase to the width of the landscape buffer to the North-West and the repositioning of the sports facilities further away from the river.
Before development can proceed further detailed information will need to be submitted and agreed in relation to a large number of issues including monitoring of ground water, drainage and foundation details to prevent pollution of the local water environment.
Once this detailed matters are addressed, work can begin on cleaning up the site and building the new sports hub which will provide new facilities for Walton Casuals Football Club, Walton and Hersham Football Club, Walton Casuals Juniors and Walton Athletics Club.
The Application in Detail:
Having reviewed the application documents here is a summary of what’s proposed:
- Siting/ Access – the site is to the East of the Excel Leisure Centre on green belt land (historically a land fill site). It is 14.2 hectares and currently contains the existing football ground, a grassed area and a large area of untouched scrubland. Pedestrian and vehicular access will be off Waterside Drive. A new access road will be created. The new car park will sit next to the Excel Centre car park (car, coach and cycle parking);
- Proposed Facilities – athletics stadium, ‘league’ football pitch and training pitches (grass and artificial) for Walton Casuals FC, Walton and Hersham FC and Walton Athletics club to replace their current facilities. Seating is proposed for 636 supporters (divided equally between athletics and football). The annotated site plan below shows the proposed layout.
- Landscaping – there will be an area of untouched scrubland retained to the north–east and south-east boundaries of the site, a mown dog walking track around the outside of the sports area (not quite a circle) and fenced picnic area and playground. The landscaping has had to avoid developing in close proximity to the high-pressure petroleum pipeline systems which run underneath the site.
29 trees and 12 ‘groups’ will be removed as part of the proposal. The Council’s report states that apart from the one group, the remaining trees are all of low amenity value. Full details of the replacement landscaping do not appear to have been submitted at this stage. This may therefore be dealt with as a further submission once planning permission has been granted.
- Parking – 242 car parking spaces (Including 6 disabled spaces), 18 electric vehicle charging points,
- Ecology – A section of the site is in a Biodiversity Opportunity Area. The Council’s Ecology report requires the following measures to make sure the development is acceptable in ecology terms:
- A green buffer between 5 and 10m wide along the Northern edge of the development;
- Protection of deciduous woodland close to the site boundary by the use of dust sheets;
- Avoiding night time work that requires outdoor lighting;
- Directing proposed lighting away from woodland and controlling light pollution to the standards of the Environment Agency pollution prevention guidelines;
- Retain and protect semi-natural broadleaved woodland on the site or compensate in a like for like basis within the landscaping proposals if retention not possible;
- Site clearance to take place between August and February which is outside the bird breeding season. If not possible, should be carried out under ecological watching brief;
- Ensure the site remains suitable for common starling and cinnabar moth after construction has been constructed via nest boxes and planting host plants for the cinnabar moth.
- Gas Risk – Because of the site’s previous use for landfill (it was apparently restored in the 70’s), a Gas Risk Assessment was submitted with the application which suggests various mitigation measures if the development proceeds. It suggested that even if the development does not go ahead, the Council may wish to investigate the potential for off-site migration of landfill gas towards neighbouring residential properties and potential ‘vapour phase contamination’ near existing properties bordering the River Thames
The Elmbridge Sports Hub
A major planning issue over the past few years has been the proposed development of a multi-million pound Sports Hub on Waterside Drive in Walton. This Sports Hub is to be built on land adjacent to the ‘Xcel Leisure Centre’ and will provide a new floodlit football stadium for ‘Walton Casuals FC’ teams, that will be shared with ‘Walton & Hersham FC’. In addition, there will be a floodlit eight lane athletics track – with additional football pitches for training etc.
The project is something that the local Conservative Party have supported, i.e. despite finding strong opposition from the Weir Hotel and their followers, and some residents living nearby. At the July 2015 Planning Committee unanimous support was given to the detailed plans for the Sports Hub being built. That approval was granted subject to the Secretary of State requiring the local authority to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Much to many peoples surprise, the Secretary of State agreed – on balance – with the Weir Hotel’s solicitors that an EIA should be undertaken.
This decision, of the Secretary of State, put on hold the plans for the Sports Hub development. At the same time, it may have also delayed the agreed sale of the Walton & Hersham FC ground and land on Stompond Lane (where it is anticipated that plans will be submitted for the development of 50 houses – nine of which will be affordable and for rent). The logic of Elmbridge Borough Council being that the proceeds from the sale of the Stompond Lane site (“in excess of £20m”) will fund the new Sports Hub (which is expected to cost around £17.9m).
One reason why many people support the Sports Hub project is that Waterside Drive is the location of a former amenity tip where dangerous and contaminated substances have been buried. Before the land can be built upon for the Sports Hub, it will be necessary to spend millions of pounds on making safe this land by thoroughly sealing it and preventing the discharge of dangerous chemicals, fluids, asbestos etc. Thus, many people support the logic of making the land environmentally safe – and then building a Sports Hub that will serve not just Walton, but Elmbridge, and even the South East.
Turley (Planning Consultants), instructed by Wilmot Dixon the contractors, conducted an environmental assessment and placed before the Planning Committee an Environmental Statement (ES), together with revised plans for the development (for more detailed information please look up the plans and reports: http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk/Council/waterside.htm). These detailed plans, and reports, were considered and supported at the North Area Planning Sub-Committee on the 14th December 2015, This recommendation was then subsequently agreed to at the full Planning Committee on the 5th January 2016. What is more, the Secretary of State has since given her approval to the development
This means that the Sports Hub construction could start as early as March 2016, with a completion by August 2017. Though, timetable slippage is always possible. That being said, there remains an element of ”concern”, in Elmbridge Council, that matters could be delayed by a Judicial Review legal challenge. Though, it is my view (from experience) that it is very difficult to obtain a High Court judges leave for a Judicial Review. So, any such legal challenge could struggle to get off the ground.
Time will tell.
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