RESIDENTS fear plans to block access to playing fields to accommodate Pompey’s new training ground will be ‘railroaded’ through.
The club is seeking to build 3m-high fences with 5m nets to catch footballs above them around two pitches near Roko Health Club, in Copnor.
The proposals have sparked fury as the club is seeking to bar access to residents – who have gone there to play sport and walk for decades.
Portsmouth City Council’s planning committee has decided to put off granting approval for the fences and netting indefinitely as it wants the cabinet to consider whether legally a demand can be made of the club to allow complete access.
But residents fear their open space will be lost forever as the decision is just a ‘stopgap’ before permission is ultimately granted so the club can grow.
Jackie Hill, 58, of Copnor Road, said: ‘The council has deferred it for the moment, but I can see still it going through anyway.
‘It’s just a stopgap.
‘There’s talk of the club wanting there to be some form of community use, but it would only help those who are into football – why not hockey and other sports?
‘The council will just railroad this through.’
She added: ‘It is frustrating that we weren’t even told about it before they started building the foundations and putting in the first.
‘The first we knew what was going on was when there was a tiny sign put up on a lamppost in Amberley Road.’
Norman Slingsby, 70, of Copnor Road, said: ‘I am not convinced by this decision.
‘The real issue was about public access more than anything else.
‘It’s a small victory for now.’
But Pompey’s chief executive Mark Catlin believes the area is in a poor state and the club will be spending huge amounts of money bringing it up to scratch.
‘We are planning to invest £250,000 in these pitches,’ he said.
‘We work very closely with our community section – they train 7,000 children each week of all different ethnic backgrounds and religious backgrounds.
‘I have been on those pitches and they are full of dog faeces. I wouldn’t want my kids playing on there.
‘They are not football-standard pitches and they will be safe, controlled and within a proper structure.’
He also said there were no plans to bring in floodlights and the facility would not be used in the evenings.
But Tory councillor Frank Jonas said the money would be used to ‘take’ something of benefit from the community.
Lib Dem councillor Les Stevens added the council should be to blame for allowing residents to have access for so long.
‘The problem is this has been open space and people have been able to use it for 20 years,’ he said.
‘Yet now the council is being forced to take it away and give it to the football club.’
Planning officer Simon Barnett said the land would be regarded as protected open space regardless of whether residents are allowed access or not.
Concerns were also raised given a footpath running near the pitches would be reduced in size and could lead to people fearing for their safety at night.
Ukip councillor Steve Hastings said: ‘My main concern is safety.
‘I can see all sorts of problems with people going through that lane and not being unable to escape if there is a situation.’
A date has not been set for the plans to go back before the committee.