Staffordshire's Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion is backing residents demanding a rethink to plans by Stoke City FC to expand their Academy at the Clayton Wood Training Ground in Trent Vale.

Euro MP backs residents' demand for rethink over Stoke City's Academy planPhil Bennion and local Lib Dem campaigner Les Porch viewed the site on Saturday with a group of residents from the Rose Tree Avenue area who have signed a petition calling for major changes to the plan, especially to improve access.

Phil Bennion, who before becoming a Euro MP served for 12 years on the planning committee of Lichfield District, said he could understand the residents' concern.

He said: "Having visited the site with Les Porch and Roger Pedley, it is quite clear that this application makes no attempt to resolve the appalling access arrangements to the existing Academy, which causes gridlock on narrow residential roads on a daily basis.

"Other Green Belt aspects of the site have been evaluated by the applicants but there appears to have been little account taken of the access problems, which can only be increased during the construction phase.

"In principle the plan could improve what is a useful facility, but the access arrangements should be reviewed before the application is sent to councillors for decision. In my view it is clear that officers from Newcastle-under-Lyme District, Staffordshire as the Highway Authority and Stoke Council, who cover the land to the east of the River Lyme, should be sitting down to review the scheme holistically. Just because the site is on the boundary does not mean it can be ignored.

"I do not believe that a new access from the A500 would conflict with the green belt nature of the site, as a track passing under the dual carriageway already exists."

Mr Bennion is writing to all three local authorities to urge them to look at access arrangements and to defer the application while changes are discussed with the club.

Leading petitioner Barry Wilson, said: "Local people have had to put up with disruption caused by endless streams of coaches, lorries and cars visiting the Academy for the past three years. They are prevented from leaving or returning to their own homes every time there is a mass exodus as cars queue to join the A34, tailing back through Riverside Road, especially at weekends."

Local resident, Roger Pedley said: "Local residents themselves have identified two other access routes to the site that would take all the extra traffic away from local roads. The Local Planning Authorities of Newcastle and Stoke should insist upon a full Highways report, taking our views into account, before granting Planning Permission."

Lib Dem local campaigner Les Porch, a former local postman who is supporting the petitioners and invited Phil Bennion MEP to visit the site said: "Everyone supports the principle of a successful Training Academy for Stoke City Football Club but that is not a planning consideration.

"The current proposals conflict with the long-standing principles set out by the City Council on the improvement of Stoke approach roads for visitors. Appropriate alternative access or even use of a brownfield site at Trentham Lakes would be consistent with National and Local Planning considerations for what is, after all, a profit making business"