Approval for Hatters' sports dome plans as Luton schools lend their support
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Luton Town Football Club wants to obtain academy category two status, which requires an indoor pitch.
Its outline plans consist of an air dome housing an artificial three-quarter size pitch, a meeting of the local authority's development control committee heard.
The club can lease the 1.2 acre site from the borough council.
The English Football League has clarified the facility must be for the use of academy players, but can be made available to other groups, such as schools, as in this case, according to planning team leader Clive Inwards.
He explained: "We've received a letter of support from the head teacher of Surrey Street Primary School, the head of Chiltern Academy, the facilities manager of The Linden Academy and the head teacher of the Avenue Centre for Education.
"The closest schools have their own playing fields, so the application site is surplus to their requirements.
"The maximum height of the air dome is 16m and the development is acceptable in this location.
"Colleagues in education told us this is surplus land with no desired future use of it.
"We have the ultimate control as the landowner of the site."
The Hatters want the 3G academy surface close to the club's main training facilities at The Brache.
Although not on the committee, Labour South ward councillors Paul Castleman and Javeria Hussain both opposed the proposals.
He suggested it would result in a permanent loss of green open space, while she said taking the plot of land away would be detrimental to the residents and children of the surrounding area.
Head of coaching at the club, Adrian Forbes, told the committee: "We have age groups from under sevens up to under 18s.
"We're in the process of really developing and growing our under 21s as well," he said.
"We cannot compete with some teams off the pitch because of our training facilities.
"It will give the club the chance to forge closer links with the schools in the area."
Assistant head teacher of Surrey Street Primary School Greg Iszchak said the schools are happy now if regular meetings are held to ensure their access to the facility is being maintained.
Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain said: "The area itself has a huge amount of development, with very little educational land left in public ownership for a new school.
"More tree planting would be far better than having a great big dome on that public land and I am totally against public land for a private use."
Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, was happy the facility can be used by the schools when not required by the football club.
"It's not a permanent structure and can be dismantled in a few days, so it cannot be a loss of open space.
"It's something the local kids can use to exercise and play football, which we definitely need in the area."
The project was deferred at the previous committee meeting over an email from the council's chief executive explaining the lease situation, which was only sent to Labour councillors.
Councillors granted planning permission by four votes to three.