FURIOUS residents stormed out of a planning meeting after Portsmouth Football Club was given permission to build an 8m-high fence around a public playing field.
The club has applied for a lease to use the fields, close to the club’s new training ground at Roko, in Copnor Road, as pitches for a youth academy.
Fans raised £250,000 for the academy but it upset some Copnor residents who fiercely objected to the loss of the field which is popular with children and dog walkers.
The enormous fence will cut off access to the public – but the city council’s planning team explained that a loophole in the Portsmouth Plan, which sets out development principles for the city, means even though it is a protected playing field it does not have to have public access.
The application was unanimously passed by the planning committee at last night’s meeting at the Guildhall.
Jackie Hill, of Copnor Road, was one of 29 people who objected to the plans.
She said: ‘I very much value our open space. These playing fields will now only be used for football. That is not the only thing the people of Portsmouth are interested in.
‘Losing this is another nail in the coffin of our public open spaces.
‘This land is supposed to be protected – but it won’t even be accessible to the public. What about people who want to walk their dogs, kick a football around on their own, have a picnic?’
The fence will also enclose the 300m-long footpath that leads from Devon Road to Hilsea Railway Station.
Safety fears were raised because of a history of commuters being subjected to anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Rob New said: ‘In the winter it gets dark at 4pm and a lot of people will not feel safe.’
He added: ‘If somebody was to be attacked they would not have anywhere to run to. They would be trapped in a 3m gap between the railway and the football pitches’.
Councillor Darren Saunders, a member of the planning committee, raised a number of potential reasons for refusal of the application but was told by officers they would not stand up if the matter went to appeal.
Mike Saunders, the architect for the site and a member of Portsmouth Supporters Trust, said after the meeting: ‘It’s for the wider good of the community. It’s a shame residents had to object – as a community club that is unfortunate. But we have to look at the benefits to the wider community.’