MK Dons face ‘significant hurdles’ to get the go-ahead for training centre plans, says leader of South Northants Council

Image: MK Dons
Image: MK Dons

MK Dons have “a number of hurdles to overcome” ahead of winning planning consent for a new training centre in south Northamptonshire, according to the leader of district council.

The Dons, who won promotion to the Championship last season, revealed plans earlier this morning for the new club and community centre near Cosgrove. It includes 20 outdoor pitches and two indoor ones.

Image: MK Dons

Image: MK Dons

Councillor Ian McCord, leader of the Conservative administration of South Northants Councillor and local councillor for Cosgrove, said he welcomed moves by the club to consult with villagers ahead of a planning application but said there would be a number of concerns.

“At the moment, Pete Winkelman is a man with some ideas and I will give him some credit for promoting his ideas and listening to community feedback,” Councillor McCord said.

“He says will take those ideas on board and will come forward with a request for planning permission.”

The plans show four first-team pitches, 11 academy pitches, three community pitches and two 3G pitches, one of which will be for community use, as well as plans for two indoor pitches.

As part of the project, a new access road is also proposed near the A508.

Chairman Pete Winkelman said: “I’ve made no secret that it’s been a long missing component of the development of the Club and, if I had my time again, I would have ensured we had our own dedicated facility from the moment the Club started.

“This is the start of a long journey to develop an international standard Club and Community Training Centre and, as part of that, we will be looking to build partnerships and relationships. Although it’s still early days, we are extremely excited about the project.”

However, Councillor McCord said there were a number of hurdles for the club to overcome before they even got to the stage of submitting a planning application.

“At this stage there is nothing to judge from a council point of view. I have my own concerns about traffic, suitability, loss of countryside and light and noise pollution.

“The area is not zoned for any form of development. None of the issues are insurmountable but whether they can clear the bar is something else,” he added.

As part of the media launch of the club’s plans, MK Dons issued a FAQ sheet for the media and members of the public which answered some of the questions posed by nearby villagers and fans:

Why are you moving outside of Milton Keynes?

In partnership with Milton Keynes Council and other stakeholders, we looked long and hard for a site but there was nowhere that allowed us to deliver a Club and Community Training Centre to the level we wanted.

Why Cosgrove?

We undertook a long search for land and this presented the best option to develop the Club and Community Training Centre in the way we wanted to, for both the Football Club and the community.

Will we be able to see the development from the village of Cosgrove?

The proposed development will not be visible from the village of Cosgrove because it will be screened by the existing trees.

What provisions have you got in place to deal with the potential extra noise?

We believe the position of the facility is isolated and any noise disruption will be minimal. The training pitches will be on a series of terraces so they are partially dug into the slope on the existing fields. The closest pitches are over 0.5km from the nearest house at Wolverton Mill. They will be more than 600m from any house in Cosgrove and will be over 800m from the Barley Mow pub.

This new development will bring more traffic through the area – how are you going to combat that?

We are working with the council’s planners and highways department to ensure there is minimal impact on the village. We intend to construct a new road which means traffic would not have to enter the populated bits of the village.

The roads around Cosgrove are already busy and this will make them worse...

Those driving to the site are likely to come from the A5 or the A508 and will leave the local roads before entering the village. We are also looking at the potential to provide an increased bus service to help those who wish to use the community facilities but do not drive.

What facilities will be on site?

They will include international-standard facilities for the first team, Academy provision which will allow them to seek to regain their Category 1 status and community facilities available for local people, as well as being the home of the Sports & Education Trust. There will be two 3G pitches, one of which will be for community use, 11 Academy pitches all varying in size, four first-team pitches and three community grass pitches, as well as two indoor pitches.

Who will be based at the Club and Community Training Centre?

It will be a base for the first team, the Academy and the Sports & Education Trust, as well as a number of Football Club staff.

How long will it take to build?

This is dependent on going through every process properly and rigorously. We expect it to be between three and five years.

How much will it cost to build?

We are looking to invest a significant amount of money but these are only initial plans and the development hasn’t been fully priced yet. The views of the local residents are important to our plans as we want to reflect local needs and wishes as far as we can.

When will it be open?

The Club and Community Training Centre will be operational seven days a week, including for community use of the facilities.

Will there be floodlights?

Yes, but only a small number of pitches will be floodlit.

Will the floodlights shine through our windows?

There will be state-of-the-art low light polluting floodlights which will minimise any impact.

Will I still be able to use the footpaths?

Yes, we intend for all footpaths to remain open.

How about walking my dogs across the site?

You will still be able to. The existing rights of way will remain. Where practicable, we will try and improve their drainage as some are seasonally wet.

The fields flood in the winter and this will make them worse...

The majority of the site will comprise of grass football pitches. These will not increase flooding. Rain water from the buildings and hard surfacing will be collected in new water features before the water flows into the river.

What have you done to ensure the centre is environmentally friendly?

In any development we undertake, we build it to the highest possible environmental standards and this will be no different.

The site is home to wildlife...

An initial ecological assessment has already been undertaken. Further work has been programmed for the remainder of the year. A scheme will be devised to take into consideration any findings and more than mitigate any losses.

Are you aware that there are Roman buildings on the site?

Yes, we are aware of that and we will be seeking to provide some interpretation that will bring the site to life.

Are you planning to support the Buckingham Canal Society in their restoration of the Old Stratford Cut?

Yes, we will seek to support that project.

Are you doing any building on the floodplain?

No, there is no intention to develop anything on the floodplain.

How can we get involved?

Developing good local partnerships will be key to delivering the project, and you can tell us what your needs and inspirations are by email – - or completing the survey.

How are you going to support local clubs and activities?

The facilities will be available to local football, sporting and community groups, while we are also reviewing the provision for non-football sports. The MK Dons already have an established Sports Education Trust (SET). SET is a charitable body and its aim is to promote community participation in healthy participation in healthy recreation. The SET’s commitment is beyond that of Milton Keynes and are likely to have a member of staff based in the community building to encourage local use.