Crystal Palace Football Club’s plans for a new and expanded football academy capable of catering for hundreds of budding young athletes has been approved. 

Bromley’s development control board earlier this month authorised the Premier League club’s plans to radically develop the site at Copers Cope Road Beckenham, on a plot of land that currently includes Gambados indoor playground. 

The vast plans will see the construction of 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.

According to the club, new educational facilities will also be built, with up to five classrooms, lecture rooms and meeting spaces.

Talking to members of the committee, Crystal Palace Football Club chair Steve Parish said the creation of the new category one academy would keep up to 220 “young men active off the streets”.

“Most of these kids won’t make it to pro footballers, but we aim to give them the best possible life experience,” Mr Parish said, emphasising the role the club would play in educating academy members. 

Mr Parish added the current site was “ramshackle and run down”, with “terrible” boundaries and “awful security”.

“I genuinely believe it’ll be a vast improved site,” he said. 

“All in all it will be a wonderful beautifully looked after park, forever really.” 

According to council documents, more than 200 letters objecting to the proposal were received. 

However, because a significant number of objections relating to the loss of Gambado’s Play Centre did not contain an address of the sender they couldn’t be logged by the authority.

The council also received three petitions with more than 442 signatures from patrons of Gambado’s Play Centre who opposed the loss of the facility.

On the flip side, nearly 550 letters of support were received for Crystal Palace’s proposal.

A common concern for residents was the height of the indoor football field ceiling, which peaks at 19 metres, and prompted Cllr William Huntington-Thresher to ask about it. 

“The reason it’s that high is, fundamentally, we don’t want balls hitting the roof,” Mr Parish said. 

Councillors during the debate were broadly in support of the club’s plans, and one which warranted development on green field and the associated loss of some trees.

“The purpose of this building is a very good one, to help youngsters,” said Cllr Nicholas Bennett. He added that by allowing the large pitch to go ahead, it would “future proof” the site from requiring future expansion. 

He was supported by Cllr Vanessa Allen, who said “it doesn’t make any sense to build something that’s not the best they could possibly go for”.

It saw the majority of councillors throw their support behind the project, with the club saying it aims to begin work at the site as soon as possible.