Council cash will be given to help create a ‘Wembley of the West’ at the home of the Devon Football Association in Newton Abbot – but only once a management plan is signed off by local residents.

A 3G synthetic grass pitch is set to be laid at the Coach Road home of the Devon FA after a planning application was approved back in February.

Teignbridge District Council’s executive Thursday morning agreed to allocate £100,000 towards the scheme from section 106 money the council holds, and to become a joint applicant for the Football Foundation grant funding of £576,382. The Devon FA will commit a further £250,000 to the scheme.

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But the plans could still be given the red card, as Cllr Gordon Hook, leader of the council, said he would only sign off on spending the council’s money once a robust management plan that was signed off by the council, the Devon FA and local residents had been agreed.

New Teignbridge leader elect Gordon Hook

New Teignbridge leader elect Gordon Hook (Image: Daniel Clark)

The scheme, which would also see a new 70 space car park built to facilitate the new playing pitch, could begin July, with a completion date in November, subject to the funding all being confirmed.


Rubber crumb would be used in the 3G pitch, but Cllr Richard Daws, the Newton Says No member for Ambrook, said that he was seriously concerned about the impact of the potentially carcinogenic material.


Rubber crumb is produced from used tyres, often referred to as end-of-life tyres (ELTs) that are processed and recycled into rubber crumb granules for use as infill, and Cllr Daws said that there was public concern about the safety of rubber crumb, particularly in Holland, where they have ripped up hundreds of pitches over concerns that they are carcinogenic.

The rubber crumb pitch is the centre piece of the £3 million development at South Devon College

The rubber crumb pitch is the centre piece of the £3 million development at South Devon College

Cllr Daws added: “We have huge concerns about the impact of rubber crumb on 3G pitches, as well as taking up grass and putting down a car park, which seems to be at odds with the climate change emergency,

“Officers may have allayed their concerns over this, but we haven’t. We are concerned about the rubber on the pitch and the water running off into Decoy Lake and the surrounding area.”


He called for a Habitats Regulations Assessment to be carried out to assess the full impact that the project would have, adding: “It would be a dereliction of duty if it was not undertaken. This will come back in front of you in a few years’ time when the pitch has reached the end of its life cycle and we need to know how to dispose of it and what to replace it with, and people will wonder how on earth this decision could possibly have been made.

“It will be of huge disappointment if you move forward with this and there are much wider concerns about this than just the concerns of local residents.”

Liam Mullone and Janet Bradford

And Cllr Liam Mullone, leader of the Newton Say No group and who represents the College ward that the Coach Road site is in, said it was a nonsense that they couldn’t stop developers laying down a rubber crumb pitch.

He said: “The argument I am hearing seems to be saying we cannot stop them laying down rubber crumb as no law to stop them. There may not be a law against rubber crumb but if they are pulling it up on the continent do we want to be laying it down here. It is a nonsense.”


Cllr Hook said it while may well be a nonsense, it was the law of the land and he doesn’t have the power to change it.

Tony Watson, the council’s Interim Head of Commercial Services, added that a recent EU study found no reason to advise people not to play on 3G surfaces.

The Coach Road HQ

The Coach Road ground

He said that the European Chemicals Agency had been asked to consider whether there is any remaining health risk posed by the substances in recycled rubber granules, and their report concluded: “ECHA has found no reason to advise people against playing sports on synthetic turf containing recycled rubber granules as infill material.”


The latest Sport England position statement on 3G pitches adds: “Concerns have, however, been raised about the safety associated with these pitches and their constituent parts, most commonly the presence of rubber crumb. We take these concerns very seriously.

“We have monitored numerous independent scientific studies on this issue, which have reported a very low/negligible level of concern for human health as a result of 3G pitches and rubber crumb.

“Indeed, the European Chemicals Agency has recently published its own findings, following an extensive EU-wide study, and has found no reason to advise people against playing sport on 3G pitches with rubber crumb.”

Council officers said it was this guidance they were following and that the approved planning application includes certain strict conditions that will necessitate very close examination and no progress will be made if the conditions are not met.

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Cllr Hook added: “The planning application has been approved and we cannot influence that, even if we would like to. Today we are looking at whether S106 money the council has should be given to the project.

“I am concerned on behalf of residents as to how the growth of the football club and the use of the pitch has affected residents, but I am also aware of the wider benefit it has on the area. I want to see the quality of life of the residents who live nearby as far as possible to be maintained while allowing recreation to take place on the field.


“There are at least three or four of the details in the planning application which will need to be signed off before work can begin. I am confident that national standards will be adhered to and I give an assurance that concerns for environmental, biodiversity and health of residents will be looked after.”

Coach Road, the home of the Devon FA

Coach Road, the home of the Devon FA (Image: Daniel Clark)

He added he would not sign off on committing any council funds to the scheme until a mutually agreed management plan between the council, the DCFA and the residents had been agreed, adding: “This will be as strong as a position as we can be in to safeguard the rights of local residents and I hope that a mutually agreeable package of measures can be agreed from the meetings that are under way.”

Cllr Stephen Purser backed the plans, saying: “This is going to be an improved sporting facility for all residents in the area. There will be advantages to people being able to use the facility and with the obesity crisis, we need as many good quality sporting facilities we can have.”


The meeting also heard that if the Devon FA wished to they would be able to go ahead and start the work, subject to planning conditions be complied with, even if the council did not agree to financially contribute to the scheme.

Paul Morrison, the County Chief Executive of the Devon FA, after the meeting, said: “We are delighted with the decision today that the Teignbridge District Council, are continuing to support our 3G & Car Park Project and have agreed to become in principal a joint applicant and provide us with substantial funding to deliver this community facility. Our focus now is to work with Teignbridge and our residents to agree a management plan for work to begin this Summer”

Coach Road, the home of the Devon FA

Coach Road, the home of the Devon FA (Image: Daniel Clark)

As well as laying the new 3G pitch, around 70 new car parking spaces would be created, with Teignbridge taking on the management of the car park and charges the same as for the Decoy Park car park.

The car park would have a height restriction and be lockable, with Cllr Hook adding: “This should act as a prevention for gypsy and travellers and the expenses to the council that an encampment could cause.”


The cabinet agreed to contribute £100,000 sporting facilities S106 money towards a new artificial turf playing pitch scheme, to take on the ownership and management of a new 70 space car park, to the capital programme investment into improvements and lining of the access track to the Coach Road site and the footpath into Decoy Park, and to agree to become a joint applicant for the Football Foundation grant funding.

But Cllr Hook added that the recommendation would not be implemented until a robust management plan that was signed off by the council, the Devon FA and local residents had been agreed.

He added: “I give an assurance that the conditions will be followed through and there will be no admissions from the conditions agreed.”