Worthing FC promises to be 'good neighbours' after development plans approved

Worthing Football Club’s chairman has reassured residents that it will be a ‘good neighbour’ after plans were approved to upgrade the Woodside Road ground.
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The club proposed to build a new, covered, north grandstand and a new toilet & food/drink building in the northwest corner of the ground, as well as to bring in new roof coverings for the west stand and the uncovered section of the northeast stand.

Roof coverings over the west terrace were removed over safety concerns in March 2023, and the plans seek to replace them with a larger covering.

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Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee approved the plans at its meeting on Wednesday, April 17, with Worthing FC guaranteed a place in this year’s National League South play-offs as the club looks to secure promotion to the National League.

Worthing Football Club's Woodside Road ground. Picture: GoogleWorthing Football Club's Woodside Road ground. Picture: Google
Worthing Football Club's Woodside Road ground. Picture: Google

Club chairman Barry Hunter said: “We were very pleased with the support the council showed us. It was a unanimous decision by the planning committee, which we fully appreciate.

"We recognise we have to be a good neighbour. There are a number of conditions we have to navigate through, which are all manageable.

"It’s fairly standard stuff to ensure we are mitigating noise and looking at local travel, local parking arrangements to make sure we are doing everything we can to support the council in managing traffic in the area. We absolutely wanted to help.

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“Ultimately, the decision to support this was very well received by the football club.”

How the new north stand at Worthing Football Club's Woodside Road ground could look. Picture: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceHow the new north stand at Worthing Football Club's Woodside Road ground could look. Picture: Local Democracy Reporting Service
How the new north stand at Worthing Football Club's Woodside Road ground could look. Picture: Local Democracy Reporting Service

With ambitions to become a National League club, Mr Hunter explained that FA guidelines stipulate that Woodside Road must have the capacity to hold 4,000 people.

"It will be very rare we ever have that crowd in the ground,” the club chairman admitted. “I don’t think we will see huge increases on current levels.

"They are the rules and we have to make sure we have a ground that’s fit for purpose.

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"This development is part of what we call, internally, a ‘National League ready strategy’. We are trying to get the club, all round, to be fit for purpose to compete one day in the National League.

“One of the things we have to do is make sure our stadium is able to host a 4,000 capacity crowd. At the moment, we’re just over 3,000 so this will enable that capacity to happen. The stand will hold something like 1,900 supporters standing.”

Mr Hunter said a priority has been to ‘improve the supporter experience’.

He added: “With this stand in the north, three quarters of the ground will be undercover, which is really important to us. We want to make sure our supporters get a much better experience when they come to the club.

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“We haven’t finalised the cost of this yet but it’s going to be a significant six-figure sum. Last year we announced we had secured investment into the club with a new minority shareholder, Gilbert Investments.

"The investment they made into the club is being used 100 per cent to develop the stadium. That’s what this is for.”

The north stand is expected to increase in maximum capacity from 940 to around 1,818 people, with five disabled seats, and a gantry will be installed in the centre of the stand for TV crews.

More than 20 objections were lodged, mostly concerning overdevelopment, loss of parking and increased traffic congestion as a result of potentially larger crowds. There were also concerns from local residents about an increase in noise levels.

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In response to concerns from local residents, the club clarified that its latest application was an amendment to the previously approved design – which was successfully tabled for approval on Wednesday.

General manager Keith Mitchell said: “The original design approval was granted back in October last year, and the as-built variations are minimal, hence the requirement for an amendment. The materials used haven't changed from the original, but the stand is 20m smaller than we have previous consent to build.

“We have met with the [concerned] residents and are working with them to address their concerns.”

The club said about 70 per cent of home fans would get to games via public transport, with the rest arriving by car, and that many fans meet up beforehand to then walk to the venue and away fans might stay the night in the town to do the same. Three letters of support were also submitted, stating more spectators would help nearby businesses and put Worthing ‘on the map’.

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Several conditions were proposed by Kevin Jenkins (Con, Goring), including securing disabled parking and further traffic surveys should the club secure its promotion, which were approved by the committee.

A Worthing Borough Council spokesperson said: "On April 17, the council's planning committee approved planning applications for the north stand and west stand of Worthing FC's ground in Woodside Road, subject to a number of conditions.

"The committee is made up of councillors but is apolitical. It considers issues such as the impact of developments on traffic, potential increases in noise and safety. Our planning officers provide advice on developments using their expertise in planning law and planning policy.

"The planning committee makes its decisions based on the information and arguments made in public for and against any such development, from members of the community and bodies like the local highway authority and Sussex Police."

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