Plans to develop the Crystal Palace Academy into a Category 1 site have been supported by Bromley Council's planning committee, heralding a new era for the club.
Developing the Bromley base will allow Crystal Palace to provide first-class playing, training and education facilities to more than 220 young players on a single site opposite the First-Team Training Ground, inspiring a new generation of local talent
The Premier League club's application received 549 letters of support and, at a meeting on Wednesday night, Bromley councillors resolved to grant planning permission, subject to completion of the 106 agreement and GLA referral, with work due to begin shortly.
The club secured a long-term lease for the site on Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, in December 2018 and hopes to secure Category 1 Academy status by the beginning of the 2020/21 season. The plans ensure the site will be kept safe and secure, whilst preserving a substantial area of green space.
All Academy players will be able to train at the site, rather than being spread across multiple facilities. The new facilities will include a full-size covered pitch; a full-size 3G pitch; a full-size 'show' pitch with seating for up to 500 spectators; and six grass training pitches.
New educational facilities will be built, with up to five classrooms, lecture rooms and meeting spaces. Eight tutors and a full-time psychologist will be on site to ensure that young players receive the best education and welfare provision. A new medical treatment, rehabilitation and sports science facility will also be a feature of the site.
The club employs 35 full-time and 100 part-time staff at the Academy and expects to recruit another 20 scouts to ensure it continues to unearth the best young talent from south London and beyond. Thirty-five players have come through the Academy ranks in the last 15 years, making more than 1,000 appearances for the Eagles.
The site will also be available for community use through Palace For Life Foundation, bringing additional community benefits. Palace For Life runs football schools, disability teams and community engagement initiatives, using the power of sport and the Palace brand to change the lives of young people in south London.
All Academy players will be able to train at the site, rather than being spread across multiple facilities
Club Chairman Steve Parish said: "I am delighted that the Bromley Council planning committee has supported our very exciting plans to develop the Academy site. It's a fantastic scheme and it will create an elite facility and have a transformational impact both in terms of footballing education and personal development for the 200 plus boys that are in our care at any one time. I would like to thank all the staff and partners that have worked so hard with us to achieve this outcome. We intend to commence work as soon as practically possible."
Speaking to Palace TV after the news outside the borough's Civic Centre, Parish revealed: "It's something we've been working on for a long time, so we are absolutely ecstatic that Bromley have given us the go-ahead."
With the club continuing to look for the next Wilfried Zahas, Nathaniel Clynes and Brandon Pierricks of south London - aided by the addition of 20 scouts for the new Academy site - Parish added: "This is an Academy we can all be proud of, right in the heartland of our catchment area."
KSS Director and Lead Designer, Nick Marshall, said: "KSS are delighted to have supported Crystal Palace FC in another successful planning application. The approval of the new Academy will support the growth of the academy boys through the provision of new playing, educational and recreational facilities. We look forward to starting work on the delivery of the project this year."
Construction is expected to begin later this year, obviously dependent on the Coronavirus pandemic, as Parish highlighted: "The primary concern is for everybody to be safe, and to follow the guidance. If that stops us from getting on with the building work, it does - but there are more important priorities at the moment. That accepted, we'll crack on as soon as we can."
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