Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 16:57 UK

Protest march over London Irish Surrey HQ plans

Protest march in Sunbury, Surrey
Up to 500 people took part in the protest march in Sunbury

Hundreds of people have taken part in a protest march against plans for a large development at the headquarters of the Premiership Rugby side London Irish.

The club wants to move from its current base in The Avenue, Sunbury, to a new £12m training complex on the site of Hazelwood Golf Club in the town.

As part of the proposals it plans to replace its headquarters with 194 houses, a health centre and care home.

Residents' groups claimed the club just wanted to make money out of the land.

Up to 500 people marched from Orchard Meadow in Sunbury to the club's training ground in The Avenue at about 1030 BST on Saturday.

These plans are vital for the future of the London Irish family
Andy Martin

Don Cunningham, who organised the protest, said: "It went incredibly well. With the local support we had I think it showed how the people in Lower Sunbury feel about the London Irish plans.

"We have a great feeling for the London Irish, we don't want them to go but we don't want them to do what they are planning to do.

"We would lose protected urban open space land. Two hundred homes is a lot of people and a lot of cars."

He added: "We also object to them taking over green belt land to run a business. Green belt is not for business use in that sense.

"We love rugby and London Irish but this is not to do with rugby it's to do with money."

'Engage with community'

London Irish Chief Executive Andy Martin said: "These plans are vital for the future of the London Irish family and we have been overwhelmed with the level of support to date locally, regionally and nationally.

"In addition, over 500 individually written letters of support have been submitted to the council, including letters from Kempton Residents Association, Sport England, The RFU Rugby Football Union, Premier Rugby and the Rugby Players' Association."

He added: "We are aware of the march on Saturday 10 April organised by the Lower Sunbury Residents Association.

"Throughout the application process, we have strived to engage as much as possible with the local community. Our door has always been open to the local Resident Associations and continues to be so."

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