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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Brighton's stadium gets go-ahead
Artist's impression of the planned football stadium
Funding of 5.3m has been allocated to the football stadium
Brighton and Hove Albion FC has been given the go-ahead to build a new 22,000-seater stadium in Falmer.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears gave the project planning approval on Tuesday.

The League One side, who currently play at the Withdean Stadium, have been without a permanent home since 1997.

Chief executive Martin Perry said: "This is fantastic news for the club. It's something many of us have worked tirelessly towards."

He added: "But it isn't green for go just yet. We've already had one false dawn.

All the hurdles that have been put in our way we have overcome
Adrian Newnham, The Seagulls Party

"At the moment what we do not know is if our opponents are planning a further legal challenge, which could cause more delays."

And supporter Norman Cook, aka DJ Fatboy Slim, said: "I'm getting a strange feeling of deja-vu because we were here two years ago and we were spraying champagne.

"Today, maybe a glass of champagne, but we're not spraying bottles of it."

In 2005 the football club thought it had won its battle, but an error led to John Prescott's original approval being quashed.

Possible appeal

The planning application for a new ground on land north of Village Way, in Falmer, has been through two public inquiries.

It was opposed by some residents, Falmer Parish Council, Lewes District Council and conservation groups, due to its proximity to the South Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Falmer council said lawyers would be examining the government's latest decision to see if an appeal could be made, while Lewes council said it would "decide on a position within the next 10 working days".

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said he was disappointed at the news, but added that he felt "the time has come to accept the final whistle on this issue".

From left to right: Paul Samrah, from the Seagulls Party, Norman Cook and club chief executive Martin Perry
Club officials, and supporters like Fatboy Slim, are celebrating

Supporters from the Falmer For All campaign formed The Seagulls Party in 2006 to field candidates at local elections in response to the Lib Dem opposition in Lewes.

Adrian Newnham, deputy leader of the party, said on Tuesday: "It's a fantastic piece of news for the club. All the hurdles that have been put in our way we have overcome.

"Falmer is the only place for the stadium and it's the right place for the stadium."

Changes announced earlier this month to the boundaries for a South Downs National Park mean a stadium coach park at Falmer no longer falls within the proposed site.

But South Downs Society director, Jacquetta Fewster, maintained: "The decision to build this stadium is completely wrong.

"The area has been described as the most beautiful of all the English chalk country.

"This decision opens the way for this beautiful landscape to be destroyed, entombed under breeze block and concrete," she added.

Meanwhile, the Campaign to Protect Rural England said a new stadium on the Sussex Downs would "damage the very landscape that should be protected".


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Supporters and opponents have their say on the decision



SEE ALSO
Seagulls cautious at stadium news
24 Jul 07 |  Brighton
Brighton wait on stadium approval
23 Jul 07 |  Brighton
National park boundaries revised
02 Jul 07 |  England
Fans mark 10-year stadium fight
26 Apr 07 |  Sussex
Latest deadline in stadium saga
15 Feb 07 |  Sussex

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