Newcastle training ground upgrade decision date update as bat surveys set to be carried out

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Newcastle United could start work on upgrading the club’s training ground in the coming months – if planning permission is granted following further bat survey work.

The Magpies submitted plans to North Tyneside Council to revamp their Benton base earlier this month after acknowledging that current facilities ‘fall significantly below the Premier League and perhaps even Championship standards’. Although Newcastle do still plan to build a new state of the art training ground in the long-term, and sites have already been looked at, the club’s owners are keen to ensure that Eddie Howe and his players have the best possible facilities in the interim .

Howe has had an input on the proposals in an effort to create an environment that flows better and enables players and staff to interact easier. As a result, new doctor and physio rooms would be located next to the players’ area and the coaching staff’s offices; the sports science team would be based beside the existing gym; and a new presentation room and players’ lounge would be situated between the dining room and the players and coaching areas. Among the other new features the club hope to introduce as part of the revamp of the dated 2002 facility are hydrotherapy and plunge pools, an extended dining area and improved changing rooms.

READ MORE: Eddie Howe to get ruthless at Newcastle but has emotional farewell touch

If planning permission is granted, Newcastle would, theoretically, be able to start work on site immediately and ChronicleLive understands the planning committee’s current target decision date is June 28. However, this will likely need to be extended to accommodate some additional bat survey work.

All bat species and their roosts in the UK are protected by law and an ecological impact assessment was submitted by Total Ecology consultants to support the application. The results of the bat risk assessment showed that the main building at the training ground, which Newcastle want to extend, has several bat roosting opportunities.

It is important to stress there was no direct evidence of bats found inside the lofts or observed externally, which meant the risk to the species within loft voids was very low. However, a number of external features were recorded in the report, such as gaps at the eaves, gaps in wooden cladding, displaced tiles and cracked mortar on gables.

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The building has, therefore, been classified as having moderate roost potential so the assessment recommended a minimum of two activity surveys between May and September. The Bat Conservation Trust guidelines advise one dusk emergence survey and one dawn re-entry survey for structures with moderate roost potential, and these have to be spaced at at least two weeks apart.



Eddie Howe and his coaching staff at training earlier this month
Eddie Howe and his coaching staff at training earlier this month

An Ecological Impact Assessment is currently still being drafted as further nocturnal surveys for bats are needed and additional recommendations may be required depending on the result of these surveys. It may well be that a decision has not been made by the committee by the time Newcastle players return for pre-season training on July 1, but, all going well, Howe could still get his wish for work to at least start later later in the summer.

“It’s hugely important for us,” the Newcastle boss told reporters earlier this month about the plans. “Your day to day environment is so important. Now we’re attracting or trying to attract world-class players to the club and, in doing so, you need to give them an environment that matches their status.

“The grass and the playing facilities are excellent here. The building, itself, that we’re changing in and working in definitely needs updating so, fingers crossed, everything goes smoothly and we can make those adjustments during the summer with a longer-term plan of moving training grounds.

“However long that takes? I do not know but, certainly, [there are] ambitious plans. That’s what the club needs to sustain where the club wants to go in the future. “

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