Goal still in sight after new pitches decision is deferred

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Fears plans for new rugby pitches were going up in smoke have been booted out by the Spalding Rugby Club agent driving the dream.

Jeremy Chew was concerned a window of opportunity would be missed when the planning application was deferred because of concerns about the smell of burning during a planning meeting at South Holland District Council on Wednesday.

The club, which currently has restricted access to Spalding Grammar School’s west field threatening the future of the mini/junior rugby section, has applied for a change of use of agricultural land at Drain Bank North, Cowbit.

Council officers had recommended the application be approved ahead of the meeting.

If it is given the go-ahead, the club would change the 13.47ha site into rugby pitches, a car park and temporary changing rooms, kitchen and clubhouse in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

Mr Chew said: “A lot rides on getting this application through by October 30. I was concerned we would miss our funding deadline.

“This is the second time the plan been deferred but I have spoken to the council and have been assured they understand the urgency.”

A sum of £400,000 has been secured for the project, including £200,000 Lead Up and Legacy funding from the Rugby Football Union and the remainder from Sport England and private investors.

The RFU funding is a particular coup for the club. Mr Chew said: “Securing RFU funding and getting up and running by the Rugby World Cup is a massive plus for the club – it’s like the Olympics.

“I’m confident the plans will go through in time and with our new grounds we will be able to capture the legacy of the world cup and boost our membership.”

In addition the new facilities are set to become one of eight regional development centres headed up by Leicester Tigers Rugby Club.

Mr Chew said: “This is very exciting. Before juniors have had to travel to places like Newark and King’s Lynn but with a brand new ground and floodlights they will be able to train on the doorstep.

“I would like to say there is no animosity around our move from Spalding Grammar School – it’s simply natural progression. Now it’s about the club and the community joining forces to make it happen.”

l A spokesman for South Holland District Council said the burning smell which stopped the meeting had come from an “external source”. Spalding Rugby Club’s plan will be considered by chairman’s panel on Friday. The date of the next planning meeting is September 25.