SOME of the biggest names in sport could be coming to the region after St Albans district councillors approved plans for a centre of excellence on Green Belt land close to Harperbury Hospital.

A consortium of businessmen have joined some of the foremost names in sports medicine to map out the bid and bring an elite sports club to the district.

Sited in Harper Lane, Radlett, the centre will boast a running track, swimming pool, gymnasium, tennis courts and sports pitch as well as some of the best medical facilities for performance athletes in the UK.

With an array of treatment rooms, consultants, hydrotherapy facilities and dieticians on offer, the applicants hope that the Harper Lane Sports Club will become one of the best training and recovery centres in the country.

Proposals for the scheme were unveiled at St Albans District Council's plans south committee meeting on Monday by Mr Giles Ferin, a solicitor acting on behalf of the un-named consortium.

Outlining the plans to councillors, Mr Ferin said the project had already received the backing of national bodies such as UK Athletics, The Football Association and Special Olympics UK.

Approaches by the consortium to allow neighbouring schools and the Watford-based Saracens and the Harlequin rugby clubs to use the state-of-the-art facilities have already garnered their support

And St Albans MP Kerry Pollard has written a letter backing the scheme which would attract a host of high-profile athletes from north London and the surrounding counties.

Despite the vast array of facilities offered by the sports club, its status as a private company rather than a council-run centre would make it out of bounds to most of the district's residents.

There are also fears that granting permission to yet another proposal on Green Belt land will make it more difficult for the district council to refuse such applications in the future.

St Stephen Parish Council has expressed its concerns over the impact of such a development on traffic congestion in Harper Lane at the A5183 junction.

But councillors felt that the prestige of having a centre of excellence with a wealth of outdoor facilities on the city's doorstep far outweighed any drawbacks it may pose and voted in favour of the application with a recommendation that it be referred to the Secretary of State.

Councillor Gordon Myland said: "We all want to protect the Green Belt the best we can it is for the benefit of the many. This, I think, is one of those cases which overrides the protection of any one particular area."