WANTAGE Town FC are set to miss out on promotion to the Zamaretto Southern League for the first time — because of a planning row.

Their ground, Alfredian Park in Manor Road, has failed an inspection because it does not have planning permission for a six-foot boundary fence.

So, despite leading the Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division before last night’s match at Bracknell and being potential champions, the team will have to look to next season to go up.

The ground is in an area of outstanding natural beauty and the club does not yet have planning permission from Vale of White Horse District Council to erect the boundary fence required by the Football Association and Southern League.

The news is set to put a dampener on tomorrow’s last match of the season at home to Ardley.

Normally, only the league champions would go up, but earlier this season because Wantage were the only club among the title contenders with a suitable ground they were told by the league that they only needed to finish in the top two to win promotion.

Wantage Town chairman Tony Woodward said: “The Football Association gave an initial indication that they would relax the boundary requirements for a full-height fence, but it looks like the Southern League reintroduced the requirement at the last minute and now we have run out of time to sort this out. When we first found out about this everyone at the club was very upset, including the players, but their efforts to finish top of the league have not been diminished by this.

“The players intend to finish top and, if they do, I’m sure there will be some sort of party, even though there can be no promotion at the end of the season.

“What the club needs to do now is liaise with Vale planners, so that we arrive at some sort of compromise, without infringing the designated area of natural beauty.

“We want to comply with the requirements of the FA and the Southern League but in order to do that we need more time.

“If we do win the league, I’m sure it will inspire the team to do the same again next year — we can certainly build on what we have achieved this season.”

Mr Woodward said the FA had not required all clubs in rural areas to erect the boundary fences.

He said planning officers told the club they would object to the boundary fence because it would affect the view from popular walking route the Ridgeway.

Wantage manager Andy Wallbridge said: “This was a massive blow and the players are disappointed but I think it has gelled us even more to try and win the league.”

He said: “The ironic thing is that I am a fencer by trade, so I could have done the job for them.

“Hopefully, the powers that be will make sure that everything is in place in good time next season.”

Jenny Hannaby, district councillor for Wantage Segsbury, said: “I think it’s important to conserve areas of natural beauty. However, council planners could have another look at this, considering the club has done so well — we need to support sporting bodies in the town.”

Ken Turner, chairman of the Zamaretto Southern League, was unavailable for comment.

The football club, formed in 1892, is hoping to raise £650,000 for an all-weather pitch. The club says there are 126 competitive teams in Wantage and Grove who have nowhere to play during bad weather. The Vale council is expected to make a decision on the planning application for the a