A judo club run by a Commonwealth Games gold medalist and her husband could face closure after plans for a new dojo were denied.

Potential closure of another club in the borough comes after the borough’s planning committee refused the club permission to turn an empty site into a new training centre. It was concerned it would prove too popular and result in over use of the surrounding green belt land.

Fighting Fitness UK submitted the application and it had been set to be automatically refused by planners. It was called to committee by former Cllr Steve Dorsett on the basis that, with no external redevelopment to either the building or parking, it would not “further erode” green belt.

Committee members disagreed and sided with the recommendations to refuse on the grounds that the area, near a site of special scientific interest, would become overcrowded with parents and club members.

Plans sought to change usage of the site from an existing commercial unit, into an indoor fitness club and studio. However, planners consider indoor dojos and gyms to be more suited to town centres than rural outskirts.

The proposals attracted 62 letters, with 51 in favour. Residents living nearby warned against changing the isolated rural building to a “main town centre leisure use”, and other areas in the borough are more suited to a sports company.

Speaking on behalf of the dojo was Vince Skillcorn, who had wanted to move his Woking club to Smarts Heath Road.

Mr Skillcorn was given the Trotman Trophy by Woking Borough Council in 2021, when the local authority described him as a “deserved winner”. The trophy is the oldest and most prestigious sports accolade in the borough, having been introduced in 1971.

He was given the award for growing the Fighting Fitness Judo club, securing a permanent base within the borough, and for the number of members competing at the highest levels of the sport.

Addressing the meeting, he said he has run the club with his wife, gold medallist Sam Skillcorn since 2015.

Mr Skillcorn said: “The application proposal will allow us to keep the Woking club going and create a world class judo facility for the Woking community. We are surprised  that the proposal would create such concern.

“Classes have limited numbers and some members car pool further reducing traffic. Without a suitable venue we face the potential closure of our Woking facility which would be a significant loss to the community.

“This application is crucial for us to continue providing employment supporting local charities and offering life-changing classes.”

He also told the meeting there would be no extension of the existing site nor any expansion of the existing hardstanding, already used for parking. Adding further, that he had been “extensively” searching for new premises since 2021, including industrial units in town centre spaces to no avail.

Councillors declined the option of debating the decision and moved straight to the vote where they sided with the council officers recommendations to refuse.