Eaton Socon FC’s floodlight plan set for approval

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House - Credit: Archant

A football club looks set to get the go-ahead to install the floodlights it needs at its pitch in St Neots to enable it to play at a higher level.

But the scheme, by Riverside Park-based Eaton Socon Football Club (ESFC), has raised concerns from residents about the impact of the six 50ft lighting towers and netting to stop stray balls.

Planners at Huntingdonshire District Council - which owns the Riverside Park - are recommending that the Development Management Committee approves the lights scheme which was opposed by its own conservation and landscape departments as well as St Neots Town Council.

A report to the committee, which meets on August 17, said: “The proposed development is considered to adequately demonstrate a genuine need given the requirement of improved facilities for ESFC to progress through the FA pyramid.

“The less than substantial harm upon the St Neots Conservation Area arising from the proposed development is considered to be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal which can be summarised as follows - allowing ESFC to attain the highest playing level possible, furthering the development of the four teams and the resultant health benefits that will stem from this for all involved.”

ESFC was set up in 1896 and is an FA charter standard club currently represented by four senior teams, three male and one female.

The scheme, which goes back to 2017, also involves a reorientation of the playing area.

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But the council received 11 representations from people living near the pitch objecting to the lighting columns because of their adverse impact on the conservation area, increased disturbance from extra use and loss of public access to part of the park.

The town council’s objections included the visual impact, traffic issues, nuisance and loss of open space.

The council conservation department said the scheme “does not preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area but harms its significance.”

Landscape officers remained concerned about the effect of the 50ft columns.

The scheme would enable the club to host an extra evening midweek game, totalling around 10 a year.

Planners recommended approval for the scheme subject to conditions, including details of materials to be used for the lights and netting and for the removal of the equipment and reinstatement of the land if it was no longer needed.

Ian Richardson, vice-chairman of Eaton Socon FC, said they had been “working to reduce the impact of the scheme since it started” and that they were hoping the town council would drop its objections at a meeting on Tuesday night.