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Newts scupper building plans for Morecambe youth football club

A youth football club's plans to build new dug outs on their playing fields have been blocked because of newts.

Lancaster City Council has refused planning permission for Westgate Wanderers to build the new dug outs because there may be protected newt species in a nearby dyke.

Council planners said the club had not provided information on whether newts were present in the dyke.

The council's planning regulatory committee, a group of elected councillors, voted unanimously to refuse the plans at a meeting at Morecambe Town Hall on Monday.

Councillor Keith Budden, a member of the committee, said: "I'm uneasy about (refusing) it because I would like to support a local club, but I acknowledge the fact that there's a shortage of information there."

Beyond Radio understands that the club is likely to resubmit the application with more information as requested.

A club representative said they would prefer not to officially comment at this time.

Westgate Wanderers, which was formed in 1968 and has several youth football teams, plays its games on playing fields at Maple Avenue near the Bay Leadership Academy (the former Heysham High School) in Morecambe.

The club wants to build two new concrete dug outs on the sideline of an existing football pitch, with roller shutters to prevent damage.

A council report says "the aim is to improve facilities and amenities at the club by providing dug out areas for home and away sides".

"In terms of this, given that the proposed dug outs will benefit the ongoing football activities and would have no impact on the playing fields or result in the loss of a playing pitch area, the principle of the development can be supported. This is also echoed by Sport England who raise no objections."

But the report also says there have been six letters of objection to the plans from members of the public, giving reasons including that "the site is unsightly and not in keeping with the natural surroundings" and "the dyke is home to protected newts and should not be disturbed".

The report says: "Further information was therefore requested by the case officer to determine whether protected species are present (eg an ecology report or habitat suitability assessment) but no such information has been received.

"As such, it is not possible to effectively assess the implications of the two dug out buildings, both during construction and operational phases, in relation to any potential protected species within the adjacent dyke.

"For this reason, the (council) is unable to ascertain whether protected species are present on site, or whether mitigation measures will be necessary. The application is therefore recommended for refusal based on insufficient information as it is impossible to say with certainty that the scheme will not be detrimental to the ecological value of the area."

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