COUNCILLORS have unanimously approved plans which would allow London Welsh to move to Witney.
Despite an objection from Sport England over the loss of two football pitches, the committee at West Oxfordshire District Council yesterday supported the decision which will see stands, which can hold up to 10,000 spectators, erected at the site in Downs Road.
It would see the rugby club move into the former Witney Town Football club stadium, which has stood empty since the club folded a year ago, in time for the 2014/15 season.
London Welsh currently play at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, sharing the ground with Oxford United.
The move to Witney is being considered as an alternative to continuing with the arrangement at the Kassam.
Now a planning application has been granted, the club has to go to the Professional Game Board for Rugby Union in England for approval to move.
Councillor Richard Langridge
Councillor Richard Langridge said: “It is clear that London Welsh coming to play here is absolutely fantastic to Witney and for rugby in the district.
“I think the benefit will be far reaching and extensive. The only planning issue is parking and I am satisfied measures are in place and safeguards are met so the club works hards with the district council to overcome any issues.”
London Welsh are in the Greene King IPA Championship but are seeking promotion to the Aviva Premiership.
Gavin Brown, from On The Edge which owns the land and submitted the application, said: “This is absolutely fantastic and it can only be good for Witney as a whole.
“It is not just a boost from a sporting point of view, but also tourism, the economy. It is now up to London Welsh to make some pretty big decisions about whether they want to go forward.”
Sport England objected on the grounds that football pitches would be lost, but planning officer Phil Shaw told councillors the land cannot be used for sport in its current state.
He said: “While it will mean the theoretical loss of football pitches, the pitches are wholly unusable.
“The grass is so high, there are nettles and brambles, it is completely overgrown. It clearly hasn’t been used, so there is no actual loss.”
London Welsh did not comment on the decision.