PASSIONATE pleas from members of the Isle of Wight Council's planning committee have saved an application from refusal — and it looks like the Island is getting a new ice rink.

The application for the Smallbrook Ice and Leisure Centre (SILC) had been recommended for refusal by officers, due to 'significant issues' including site access, parking and drainage, but committee members refused to 'kill the dreams' of young people on the Island.

The committee last night (Tuesday) approved plans for the new facility — which will include an ice rink, multi-use courts, a climbing wall, trampoline area and three tennis courts — following the closure of Ryde Ice Arena four years ago.

However, following an objection lodged by Sport England, due to the loss of playing field space, the decision will now require government approval.

An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said: “The local planning authority is required by law to consult with the Secretary of State prior to issuing the decision of the planning committee.

“Legislation states that, where a development would result in the loss of a playing field, and where Sport England has objected to the scheme, the Secretary of State must be consulted.”

Committee member Cllr Vanessa Churchman urged members to support the application as an investment in young people and cited statistics detailing a lack of participation in youth sport — a problem she said the SILC would help address.

"This application has drawn tremendous support from across the whole Island," she said.

"Those children who are not particularly strong academically often excel in other spheres, such as sport, which can provide an outlet for classroom frustration.

"I can not understand Sport England's approach — I am at a loss as to why they seem to be obsessed with football to the detriment of other sports.

"A resident on the Island has offered £1 million to kickstart the project and I have only seen obstacles put in her way.

"Surely it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to resolve these ancillary problems."

Cllr Matthew Price said: "It seems absurd to think we would vote against a new sports facility.

"You have an applicant willing to put her own money into a sports facility for the Isle of Wight. I would love her to come to Newport, I'm sure we would definitely find a site for that.

"I do not seem to recall Sport England's objections over the loss of a practice pitch at St George's Park."

Referring to a recently-approved housing development at the nearby Rosemary Vineyard, Cllr Geoff Brodie said: "This is a massive opportunity for the Isle of Wight and it seems to me that if we are allowing people at some point in the future to live at Rosemary Vineyard, without decent public transport, surely we can allow people to occasionally visit an ice rink?

"I think it is ridiculous, to be frank, and an insult to young people on the Isle of Wight."

Cllr Michael Lilley argued ice skaters needed somewhere to train on the Island, rather then 'waking up at 3am and travelling to the mainland,' and said the committee would 'destroy' that opportunity if they refused the application.

He said: "We have to support our young people — yes, there are real problems, but we can resolve them.

"I am not going to be responsible for killing the dreams of young people."

Approval was granted with several conditions attached, relating to parking provision, traffic management, manoeuvrability around the site and drainage — although the wording of the conditions has yet to be determined.

Dr Zyrieda Drenning, who has spearheaded the venture and provided funding, said she was 'absolutely delighted' the application had been approved — and said 'desperate' Island sports clubs would benefit from the indoor facility.

She said: "I know we still have to overcome the Sport England objections but I think most of the conditions are reasonable and I am really excited.

"For sport, it has been the most most dreadful winter yet. Matches were cancelled due to the weather and I think we have had a very harsh winter on the Island.

"Our Island desperately needs an indoor sports facility."

UPDATE: The SILC team have issued the following statement.

"We are truly delighted to announce the application for the proposed Smallbrook Ice and Leisure Centre was approved.

"There are some conditions attached which need to be finalised, but we look forward to working together with our MP and our local council to meet these to achieve the desired outcome.

"We will also be working hard to win over Sport England and their decision to reject this application. Like last year, it has been a disastrous winter season on the Island for sport.

"Tennis, netball, hockey and so many other sports have had many of their matches cancelled due to high winds and rain. The Island is in desperate need for this indoor facility.

"This is a huge step in the right direction and is great news for everyone, especially the skaters and hockey players who continue to skate on the mainland."

Nichola Roe from Ryde Arena Community Action Group, said:“We hope that a combined effort between the sporting and wider community with the Isle of Wight Council will not only return ice skating, but establish the Islands first indoor tennis and netball courts, available for community and club use all year round!

"A massive congratulations to all those involved!”

Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.