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Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles considers whether to step in over contentious £1.5m running track in Little Marlow
GOVERNMENT Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles is considering whether to step in over the controversial £1.5m Little Marlow running track proposal.
The application, put in by Wycombe District Council last year, is now with the Department for Communities and Local Government, headed by Tory MP Mr Pickles.
The council's own planning committee has granted approval to the athletics plan, which is intrinsically tied to its £30m Handy Cross sports centre revamp.
The current track at Handy Cross needs to be relocated before the redevelopment can take place, as planned, this spring.
But the DCLG has directed the council not to proceed with the running track until Mr Pickles has signed off on the proposal.
Mr Pickles is currently weighing up whether the application should be called in – leading to a public inquiry by the planning inspector – or whether to allow it to go ahead.
The DCLG told the Free Press that no decision has been made yet. There is no set time scale for a decision, though the department said it always aims to do so as quickly as possible.
William Northcroft, Chairman of Little Marlow Residents Association, has been among those leading the campaign to stop the track being built.
Commenting on the Secretary of State's involvement, he said: "I'm not hopeful but the fact they are seriously looking at it is a good sign because we think the process was flawed and people were being told things that weren't accurate.
"Nobody is saying you couldn't have an athletics training track here but what we're objecting to is that it's a big development. It's huge within what is now a green field.
"We think it's the beginning of further development and that's why we think there needs to be shown there are very special circumstances."
The council has said such circumstances do exist for the Green Belt when sporting facilities are proposed and it has insisted the track will not be the start of further development on the site.
It has tried to assuage concerns by making the track's eight lanes green instead of the traditional red to blend in with the surroundings, while the floodlights would be of the lowest permissible illumination level of 75 luxe. An all weather pitch at Handy Cross has 400 luxe floodlights.
The floodlights would be retractable down to 4.5m when not in use, rising to 15m when events are being held. Restrictions have been put in place preventing the track being used after 9pm.
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