Major plans for the demolition of buildings at St George’s Park football ground in Newport, and for a retail park and drive-through restaurant, have been passed, after being recommended for approval by Isle of Wight Council’s planning officers.

Five councillors supported the scheme, with two against. Councillor Julie Jones Evans, who opposed it alongside Cllr Shirley Smart, said the meeting had been “distressing” and immediately resigned from the Planning Committee. Ms Jones Evans continues to sit as a Councillor however. Two Councillors abstained.

It was revealed at the meeting that plans for a 24-hour gym on the site had fallen through because of other similar businesses opening in Newport.

However, retail space, alternative leisure facilities, car parking, access and landscaping were considered. A garden centre and drive-through restaurant were among the proposals for the site, which is adjacent to Asda on the outskirts of Newport.

There were conditions and exclusions in place about what would be sold there, which planning officers said would mean that the impact on Newport town centre would “not be substantial”. Other conditions were placed on the plan, around noise and disturbance.

Objecting, a local resident said, “We have enough supermarkets and several fast food restaurants.” Instead, she called for sports facilities to be put there, for the benefit of current families and those moving to the St George’s Gate development.

One objector, representing neighbouring supermarket Asda, said he was concerned that a change in the plan from smaller retail spaces to one bigger one would make it a “retail destination” and would negatively impact the town centre. The meeting was told that there had been a 28% increase in empty units in Newport since January 2018. Councillor Julie Jones Evans said high streets are dying, while retail parks were increasing their trade.

Local member Geoff Brodie also opposed the scheme, arguing it was outside the development boundary and would impact shops in Newport.  He said if it was approved, there should be a safe footway along Pan Lane. He said he had also asked for it when the Asda store was given the go-ahead and told the meeting there had been “numerous” near misses on that route in the last year.

Cllr Brodie asked for the completion of the new home of Newport FC, which will be called Wightfibre Park, before work was started on the St George’s Way retail park. The meeting was told that a “Completion Notice” could be issued. Councillors were also told about a restriction that means that the retail spaces cannot be used until alternative provision is provided for Newport FC. The football club is currently sharing with East Cowes Vics, at the Beatrice Avenue ground.

South Coast Leisure is behind the scheme, which is linked to the re-siting of Newport Football Club on a field at the Racecourse Roundabout, near Whippingham. As Isle of Wight Radio previously reported, that part of the plan was given the go-ahead in April 2018.

For the developer, Paul Airey told the meeting that many concerns were “comprehensively” dealt with in the officer report that had been presented to councillors. He admitted, “There will be some trade diverted from Newport town centre…but a limited amount.” Mr Airey also pointed to the fact that expenditure is expected to grow in Newport before 2023.