High-flying Hartley Wintney Football Club is all set to clinch promotion after having vital ground improvement plans approved.
The runaway leaders of the Combined Counties league Premier division won a first league title in 33 years last season but failed to meet ground grading requirements to allow promotion to Step 4.
However last Friday (March 10) club officials were celebrating after being told Hart District Council planning officers had approved the ground improvements.
The application was for ‘small’ single-storey extensions to the Green Lane clubhouse and changing rooms, a 63-seat supporters stand, two areas of covered standing, some new fencing – including turnstiles – and areas of hard standing to improve security and safety, for players and supporters.
It was feared a row over parking could scupper the plans.
Greenfields Junior School, which is next door to the club, objected due to ‘a major concern’ in respect of parking.
'Grossly inadequate and uncontrolled’
Governer Steve Airton said that over the past few years it has become clear that parking on football match days is ‘grossly inadequate and uncontrolled’, with cars often parked on grass verges, pavements and in areas that would prevent emergency vehicles gaining access should the need arise.
Mr Airton said promotion would mean an increase in supporters and parking needs, adding the school has ‘seriously considered’ locking the car park gates at the weekend.
Hart received four letters of objection to the scheme and 29 letters in support.
'Far more than a mere footballing facility'
Supporting the application, Anthony Millerick said the 120-year-old club is “far more than a mere footballing facility”.
“It is a historical hub of sporting, social and recreational activity that has served the local community for decades,” he added.
“With mothers meetings on Sunday mornings, darts on a Monday, bingo on Thursday nights, the quiz on a Friday, fitness clubs and the multitude of weekend events this is a location that serves many.
“The plans carefully put forward by the committee only enhance the club and its facilities which in turn will benefit the local populous further, not just those kicking a ball around at the weekend.”
Hart ruled the alterations were acceptable in terms of impact and would enhance an existing leisure facility.
Hartley Wintney FC said Friday's decision was “extra special” for the club.
“A huge thank you to everyone for all their hard work,” it added.