FOREST Green Rovers have failed in their bid to keep an area of barren land as an overspill car park.

The club was seeking to scrap a legal obligation, which requires an area to be set aside for youth recreation facilities at the New Lawn stadium.

It has been using the land earmarked for a multi-use games area (MUGA) as an overflow car park.

FGR say they took the decision to discharge the agreement in good faith so that the MUGA could be built at a 'more appropriate' site.

Despite planning officers recommending approval and advising that it was likely to succeed on appeal, Stroud District Council's development control committee refused the request at a meeting on Tuesday, January 14.

Speaking on behalf of Nailsworth Town Council, Norman Kay said: "I can see no justification to release the obligation and therefore deprive the people of Nailsworth of this asset.

"If the committee refuses this request it would provide some pressure on FGR to recognise their obligation to the community.

"Like too many football clubs now this is a private business which has lost its way when it comes to the community's welfare."

When planning permission was granted for FGR to build the New Lawn stadium in 2005, a Section 106 agreement was included requiring that an area be set aside for a MUGA.

Until those facilities are provided, FGR must allow access to its own site for youth recreation from 7am to 11pm except on first team match days.

Trevor Saunders, a director at FGR, told the committee:  “It is FGR’s understanding that the provision for a MUGA was installed at the time as an aspiration of the local community that FGR was willing to help realise.

“It had been FGR’s intention to provide this however for reasons unknown to the current owner this planning provision was never implemented.

“Planning permission for a MUGA is now non- existent and it is unlikely that an application will ever be granted.”

During a lengthy debate, councillors raised concerns about potential access to the MUGA and the effect that losing the overflow carpark would have on residential areas.

Cllr Liz Ashton (Lab, Berkeley) said: "Parking is terrible up there. It's very congested.

"FGR is a popular club and fans come from far and wide.

"I believe the land does the community more good used as a car park."

However, a motion put forward by cllr Martin Whiteside (Green, Thrupp) to refuse the request was passed.

Cllr Whiteside said: "I think we would be giving away opportunities for the people of Nailsworth.

"Until the MUGA is developed, the obligation gives access to use all the facilities at the New Lawn site, which is amazing.

"It might not have been put into effect but there is a premium for flat open space in the district.

"If we refuse this we can encourage FGR to come up with a new application in return for some positive compromises."

Speaking after the meeting FGR chairman Dale Vince said: “The action of a few councillors at that meeting was quite disgraceful, they ignored planning law and instead are seeking to use the planning system to extort something from FGR.

"Local residents do not want the MUGA at FGR anymore, no planning consent exists, the council have said it will not be re-granted and FGR are not obliged to build it - only keep the land available for it - which the club has done since 2005, to no avail."