CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand an Army rowing club in Abingdon are set to be approved tonight despite objections.

The Army Rowing Club Association wants to demolish parts of its facility on the banks of the Thames and build a new clubroom and boat store.

The expansion plans are the reason that Abingdon's Kingfisher Canoe Club was asked to leave the site, which nearly resulted in Kingfisher having to close.

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Now the plans have prompted fresh controversy, with 11 individual objections from residents and a joint submission from a residents' group.

Among the major complaints is the fact that the land is owned by Vale of White Horse District Council (which leases it to the Army) – the same authority which is set to decide the planning application tonight.

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The site, formerly used by the RAF Sailing Club, was transferred to the Army when RAF Abingdon became Dalton Barracks.

David Surman of Kingfisher Canoe Club wrote to the council objecting that the Army's use of the site was a waste of an opportunity to let local people use it to get onto the river.

He said: "The Army Rowing Club is not a local facility, it is a national organisation.

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"Local people are now excluded from use of the site which has been used by the Army on a limited basis.

"When Dalton closes, any use of this site will be by military personnel from outside Abingdon and probably outside the county, with a consequent increase in traffic.

"The site is Vale land and should be used for Vale people."

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The Army Rowing Club Association's photo of its current outdated clubhouse.

Steve King, who lives on Wilsham Road, agreed, adding: "Thought, even priority, should be given to local groups and organisations who could make better use of this plot, rather than a national organisation who only

plan to use the site very very infrequently."

Other neighbours asked for conditions that would limit use of the clubroom to daytime hours on weekdays only to minimise noise pollution.

Wilsham Road is heavily used by cyclists, so inconsiderate parking was flagged as a potential hazard, and extra visitors to the area taking up parking spaces was also raised.

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Abingdon Town Council, meanwhile, raised questions over the impact on residents from extra traffic, parking and noise.

It even suggested that the Army review its plans and relocate further away from residential areas.

Some residents, however, have approved of the scheme, with the district council saying it received five letters of support – though some of those people did not live as close to the site.

Adam McRae, who lives in Marcham, wrote to the Vale: "This build is essential to the Army Rowing club ensuring its continued future and storage of its equipment.

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The Army Rowing Club Association's photo of the entrance to its site.

"It gives the opportunity for soldiers to experience the benefits of rowing in building a team ethos and aid with the maintenance of fitness as well."

James Stanier, meanwhile, who lives 30 miles away in Maidenhead, said: "Worthwhile application which will improve the aesthetic appeal of the site.

"In addition it will greatly increase access to rowing as a sporting activity."

Under the plans, submitted to the council in June, the rowing club would get new toilets, changing rooms and disability amenities including an internal mobility ramp to the higher floor level.

The new clubroom, with a raised floor to reduce the risk of flood damage, will sit alongside a new 25m x 10m rowing boat store.

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Putting its case to the council, the Army Rowing Club Association said it had received no objections in pre-application discussions with neighbours last December, though residents claimed this was not the case.

The association also pointed out that its plans include 12 designated car spaces as well as a disabled spot and six bicycle storage stands.

Further, it said its plans would see the replacement of the current buildings with safer and more accessible facilities.

The association said that its plan was a significant long-term investment to improve the leisure facility, which will enhance the riverside and street scene.

Having assessed all submissions, Vale planning officers have now recommended that the planning committee approve the application.

Members of public are welcome to sit in on tonight's meeting which starts at 7pm at the Beacon hall in Wantage.