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Gloucestershire Business News

Land refused for football stadium could become 1,000 homes

Years in the planning, a businessman's ambitions to build an all-wooden new 5,000-seater football stadium in Gloucestershire could have reached the end of the road.

Initial plans that included an eco-business park as well were altered and owner of Forest Green Rovers football club, Dale Vince, was confident last night's planning meeting would see a decision in his favour.

But despite officers at Stroud District Council recommending approval of the amended scheme, which would see a new stadium for the Nailsworth-based football club built on land near junction 13 of the M5, councillors voted against.

Which left Mr Vince disappointing and openly contemplating 1,000 homes on the site instead.

Dale Vince, also the founder of Stroud headquartered Ecotricity, said: "It is quite illuminating they had to pause for five minutes to think of a reason, having already turned it down.

"They probably are on weak ground, and maybe we will appeal, but it is another year of my life and how hard do I have to work to try and bring a little progress."

He added: "I think it is local politics that is causing the problem - and a lack of big picture mentality. You often find that with planning committees.

"We have spent four years on this so far. The council officers recommended approval. Now they are trying to come up with reasons against the advice. It is interesting and disappointing, frustrating. It is a visionary project. It just seems hard to make progress."

He added: "There are quite a few other things we could do with the land. We have stuck it into the local plan for housing and we could get 1,000 homes there probably. That might be a more suitable outcome for the people of Eastington."

No stranger to coveting publicity - in the world of football a club committed to vegan principles stands alone - its all-wooden eco-friendly structure designed by renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid has also garnered attention.

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Fans of Forest Green Rovers, said Mr Vince, would be devastated. Concerns over traffic in the town should the club continue to climb the leagues had been part of the plans to move to a new ground.

"It does not affect the season about to start. I think it might when we are knocking on the door of the championship. That might be difficult."

Councillors at last night's planning meeting said the scheme would not provide enough for the community and were concerns about noise and landscaping.

Seven councillors voted to refuse the stadium and four voted against.

Punchline said: It seems ironic you can win planning permission for an enormous incinerator a junction on the motorway away and yet something that could put Stroud on the map in a positive way has been refused. Not only would the stadium have been a symbol, an environmental statement, it would have become a destination attracting people from outside the county. Dale Vince, we are sure, would have made a commercial success of the venture.

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