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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Falmer stadium 'wrong location'
The village of Falmer
Falmer residents said there were other locations for the stadium
Campaigners who opposed Brighton and Hove Albion's plans to build a stadium have said they are "bitterly sorry" for villagers living near the site.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has ruled the 23,000-seater stadium can be built at Falmer on the outskirts of the city on the edge of the South Downs.

The South Downs Joint Committee and Lewes council opposed the plans.

Council planner Neil Commin said: "We are disappointed and remain convinced that Falmer is the wrong location."

He said: "Our firm view is that there are alternative sites available which are more suitable.

What is the point of the government drawing boundaries around protected countryside if it is simply going to ignore them?
Henry Oliver, Campaign to Protect Rural England

"I am bitterly sorry for residents of Falmer who have fought long and hard to protect their village against this inappropriate development."

He said two planning inspectors backed Lewes council's point of view and Mr Prescott's own government had issued planning guidance designed to protect Areas of Natural Beauty and National Parks against this sort of development.

The application site falls within the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Chief executive of the South Downs Joint Committee, Martin Beaton, said: "It is clear that the secretary of state has failed to follow his own government's planning policy.

"The implications of this decision are very worrying for all organisations involved in caring for protected landscapes.

The village of Falmer
The site is in the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

"It demonstrates that the government is willing to set aside strict national planning policies in favour of local considerations."

And Henry Oliver, head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the secretary of state had a responsibility as guardian of planning policies to protect the environment.

He said: "This decision is a shameful abdication of that responsibility in the face of emotional and political pressure.

"What is the point of the government drawing boundaries around protected countryside if it is simply going to ignore them?"

A statement confirming Mr Prescott's ruling said there were "no other realistic alternative sites where the need for the stadium could be met", a factor that outweighed the potential harm to the South Downs.

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