WAVERLEY Borough Council has opted not to subject itself to enforcement action after closing an investigation into claims Farnham Town FC’s new changing rooms were built without the necessary planning permission.
The council’s ruling, which follows a complaint by Rowledge architect Mark Westcott, concludes that the new changing rooms at the Memorial Ground in West Street were lawfully constructed under Permitted Development rights, which allow for the construction of buildings ‘required temporarily’.
Waverley argues that the changing rooms are indeed ‘required temporarily’ due to the loss of Farnham Town FC’s current changing facilities at the adjacent Memorial Hall due to the building works at the hall.
However, Mr Westcott has expressed disillusionment at the council’s decision, which he criticised as “a quite incorrect interpretation, if not an extraordinary twisting of the relevant planning law”, adding “it seems to be yet another example of Waverley council trampling all over Farnham without any moral sense or reasonable regard to the legislation or the residents.”
Adding to the confusion, on Tuesday night members of Waverley’s executive committee agreed a request by the football club to replace its current lease on the Memorial Ground, due to expire in 2023, with a new 25-year agreement.
The rationale for this is apparently to help the football club meet requirements for various FA and Sport England grants towards improving its facilities.
However, the football club’s future at the Memorial Ground remains uncertain despite the new lease after Waverley recently commissioned a feasibility study to explore the potential for relocating the football club to Weydon Lane.
Away from the controversy, Paul Cooper, president of Farnham Town FC this week welcomed the club’s new temporary changing rooms which were officially opened on Saturday just in time for the new season.
He said: “We are delighted with the new changing rooms; they are a vast improvement on what we had before. As they’re on the side of the pitch that is next to the clubhouse, players and spectators won’t have to walk far to enjoy a drink after the game.
“As well as the first team and the reserves, the club also has 15 youth teams from under eights right up to the under 18s and we also have a disabled team. The future looks bright with many talented youths playing for the club, all our teams will benefit from these new facilities.
“Waverley Borough Council has been very supportive, helping us with the new changing rooms and is also proposing to renew and extend our lease so the club has security for the next 25 years.
“Our aspiration is to grow and develop the local talent coming through, improve our facilities and secure more sponsorship so our young players can reach their full potential. If we stay at the Memorial Ground we will have to apply for permission to keep the changing rooms - if we move to another site we can take them with us.
“Either way we have a secure future and are in a very positive position. We can’t wait to show off the new digs to visiting teams.”