CIVIC chiefs are being urged to approve plans to replace a redundant New Forest theatre with better facilities for sports teams.

Esso and ExxonMobil have applied for planning permission to bulldoze the 300-seat theatre, which has stood empty for four years, and transform the site.

The scheme includes a new pavilion for groups which use an adjoining sports ground, including the newly-promoted Fawley Cricket Club.

For the past two summers players, umpires and visiting teams have changed in temporary wooden huts which have to be removed at the end of the season.

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Chris Tona, chairman of Holbury Community Sports Association, which is based at the site, said: "It's far from ideal and underlines why the cricket club is so so keen to see planning permission granted. It will give Waterside sport and enormous boost."

Mr Tona is one of several people who have written to New Forest District Council to voice their support for the proposals.

His letter says; "What an amazing thing Esso are doing for the community. This will ensure sport will thrive in Holbury for all age groups for a very long time."

Blackfield resident Bob Leach has also written to the council.

His letter says: "It's fantastic Esso have decided to build a new facility. The plans look great and will ensure the old, potentially unsafe site will be taken down and made into a community area."

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Sport has been halted by the coronavirus outbreak but the site is normally home to Fawley Cricket Club, AFC Fawley, Waterside Lawn Bowls Club and Fawley Tennis Club.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Esso and ExxonMobil are planning to replace the old Waterside Theatre with a new pavilion, improved parking and a landscaped garden.

The theatre was part of Esso Sports and Recreation Club, which was built in 1949 for people working at the neighbouring refinery.

Over the years it has been used to host a variety of events, including at least one meeting of the New Forest National Party Authority.

The planning application highlights the cost of keeping the site safe and adds: "It is uneconomic to further maintain these redundant buildings."