The hurdles Newcastle United face in order to get training ground upgrade plans approved
Newcastle United face several hurdles as they await approval on plans to extend and upgrade the club’s training ground at Darsley Park.
Earlier this month, United submitted plans to North Tyneside Council for single-storey side and rear extensions to the east side of the outdated complex, as well as a dining room extension and landscaping works.
While Newcastle are hoping to build a new state-of-the-art complex on a different site in the future, in the meantime, the club is looking to upgrade the current training facilities in Benton ahead of the 2022-23 Premier League season.
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The training ground plans – which include improved dining facilities, hydrotherapy and plunge pools, a new players’ lounge, new medical treatment rooms, presentation and changing room upgrades as well as new offices – will require approval before construction work can officially begin.
A decision is expected to be made by the end of next month with the work likely to be approved, but further surveys and local opposition to the works could delay the process and, in turn, impact Newcastle’s pre-season preparation.
An ecological impact assessment on the site highlighted the risk of bat roosting in the main training ground building. Bats are protected by UK law, meaning the club will have to submit additional information in order to support the planning application.
Although no bats were present in the assessment carried out by Total Ecology in April 2022, the training ground building is classified as having ‘moderate roost potential' and will require at least two bat activity surveys (one dusk emergence survey and one dawn re-entry survey) at least two weeks apart between May and September in accordance with the Bat Conservation Trust guidelines before the plans can be considered for approval.
Two invasive plant species have also been recovered on the site – cotoneaster and Japanese knotweed – both of which are included on Schedule 9 (part ii) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
It is an offence to cause the spread or relocation of these species and it has been recommended that a specialist company is employed to complete a further survey and remove the invasive plants prior to the works commencing on the site.
Local resident opposition
Several Benton residents who live in the estate next to the training ground have voiced their concerns to North Tyneside Council. Some have also requested to have their feelings heard during the planning meeting that will discuss the approval or rejection of Newcastle’s proposed training ground upgrade.
Residents have already raised issues regarding parking, excessive noise, dust, litter and public urination linked to the training ground for consideration.
One resident stated in a formal objection letter: “I should like to attend the hearing with speaking rights to ensure that the voices of residents living so close to these works can be heard and, I hope, taken into consideration both at the hearing and during the period in which all the work will be carried out.”
Another added: “NUFC’s history of a total lack of respect for their residential neighbours and continued blatant breaching of working hours is of huge concern to me in regard to these proposed building works.
"Whilst I understand the need for NUFC to upgrade their training facilities it is the huge inconvenience and disruption this will cause their immediate residential neighbours that concerns me.
"Having looked at the plans the finished extensions will meet the players needs but at what cost in terms of the mental toll to those of us living nearby?”
One resident also suggested that the club had already started preparatory work prior to receiving planning permission. The Gazette understands that the current works taking place at the training ground are to do with playing pitches and ground works rather than any structural changes and therefore do not require any planning permission to go ahead.
The majority of local residents who have raised concerns have also voiced their support for the club while also requesting that the aforementioned issues are considered and addressed during the application process.
What Eddie Howe has said
Newcastle head coach has implemented subtle training ground upgrades since his arrival at the club back in November.
“We've tried to just create an environment that was a little bit more welcoming, really,” he said previously.
“We've made subtle changes to the training ground. There are limited things you can do when structurally you can't change, but you can maybe change the look and feel of it.
“A lick of paint here and there, new carpets – that's obviously the furnishings side – but then some [motivational] messages.
“We've changed some key things that the players see as they walk around the building just to try to make sure every space is utilised in a positive way, because you've got to remember the amount of time the players spend here is extreme.
“They must spend more time here than they do at home, and it's got to be a comfortable environment, but it's got to be a learning environment at the same time.
“We've just tried to show them that the club is going to change in a positive way for them, so they're going to have hopefully a better experience here.
“Now as I said, we can't do that structurally, and make the big changes that maybe we'd want to, but we can do it in subtle ways knowing that there's more to come, and that's what we've tried to do, just give them a taste that the club is going to move in a different direction.”
On the proposed upgrades, Howe added: "It's hugely important for us.
"Your day to day environment is so important. Now we're attracting or trying to attract world-class players to the club and, in doing so, you need to give them an environment that matches their status.”