CONTROVERSIAL plan to rebuild an Army rowing club will go ahead, despite outcry from residents.

Following recommendation from planning officers, the proposal was unanimously approved by Vale of White Horse District Council planning committee on Wednesday evening.

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

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The expansion proposal is the reason that Abingdon’s Kingfisher Canoe Club was asked to leave the site, which nearly resulted in Kingfisher having to close.

Major concerns from residents and a joint submission from a residents’ group, supported by Abingdon Town Council, also caused controversy over the plan.

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The district council received 11 individual objections with key points including noise pollution caused by use of clubhouse in unsociable hours, traffic from extra visitors and lack of parking spaces.

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

At the committee meeting, Abingdon councillor Alex Greenway said that the town council supported neighbours’ concerns over the possible increase of traffic and noise in the area.

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He also pointed out: “We believe this is an inappropriate development as its form and build is bigger than surrounding properties.”

Committee chairman Bob Johnston, however, said he found it ‘hard to believe’ that noise levels would rise after the expansion.

He asked Mr Greenway: "Are you telling me that students are coming in at 5am?"

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However, the councillor was not able to provide a more detailed explanation to his statement.

He said: “The answer to this question is complex.”

Brigadier Adam McRae, who also made a statement at the committee meeting on behalf of the Army rowing club, said: “The current clubhouse is very dangerous to those who use it.

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“There is no change in the use as this year we have had no more than 20 people on site.”

The brigadier also confirmed that university students from Oxford do not use the club’s facilities and Army club members only row during work hours as it is part of their employment.

Mr McRae also reassured committee member Janet Shelley that the clubhouse will not be used for parties or social events but for shelter and space for training sessions.

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Under the plans, submitted to the council in June, the rowing club will 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.

The plans also include 12 designated car spaces as well as a disabled spot and six bicycle storage stands.

It is a significant long-term investment to improve the leisure facility, which will enhance the riverside and street scene.

It is unclear yet whether the town council or the residents’ group are planning to launch an appeal to the decision or when the Army club will begin the renovations.