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Councillors go against recommendation and reject sports pitch

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022 12:12pm

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans for an artificial sports pitch at Ermysted's Grammar School in Skipton have been rejected by Craven District Council, despite the planning officer's recommendation that the application should be approved.

It follows complaints over the impact on neighbouring residents including those living at a retirement home just metres away.

Ermysted’s said it needed the floodlit facility at the back of the school site as its existing grass pitch there often floods, meaning pupils have to travel more than a mile away to the Sandylands Sports Centre.

However, Craven District Council’s planning committee yesterday went against a recommendation of approval to unanimously reject the plan.

Councillor Robert Heseltine said the proposed pitch “failed on all levels” and could not work alongside the neighbouring Eller Beck Court retirement home.

He said: “It is difficult to envisage that these two developments are entirely compatible – I just can not see that.”

Councillor Andrew Brown added: “There is a steel cage surrounding the proposed pitch at 4.5 metres high, as well as eight lighting poles at 15 metres high – these are pretty substantial.

“Residential balconies would overlook the pitch at exactly the same height of the lightning poles and at exactly the right height to get noise travelling over the acoustic barriers.

“I’m completely convinced that the amenity of people – some of whom are 17 metres away – would be interfered with significantly.”

The sports pitch plan was first submitted in June 2021 - before the retirement flats were built - and has proved divisive as almost 200 people wrote to the council to object or offer their support.

This included 125 objections and 71 letters of support for the pitch would have been made available for community use at limited times.

Alan Wooley, school business leader at Ermysted’s, told yesterday’s meeting that the existing grass pitch can be unavailable for up to three months a year due to flooding and poor ground conditions.

He also said the school had tried to address concerns from residents by reducing the opening hours of the proposed pitch.

He said: “Currently the school lacks adequate sporting facilities for both competitive and recreational use.

“Sports coaching and competitive fixtures take place at Sandylands, and boys have to be moved between the two locations by coach which is inefficient, time consuming and expensive.”

Skipton Town Council was one of 125 groups or individuals who lodged an objection against the plans.

It raised concerns over traffic on Gargrave Road and said the opening hours of the proposed pitch until 9pm on some weekdays would have an “unacceptable” impact on neighbouring residents.

Sport England – the national body responsible for growing grassroots sports – had initially objected but later withdrew this, and has continually insisted the facility should only be used by the school in order to prevent an “oversupply” of sports pitches in the area.

It said in a letter: “Artificial grass pitches are both expensive to construct and maintain, and require a minimum amount of teams to make them financially sustainable.

“If too many are built it undermines the financial business plan and causes them to close.

“However, by limiting or restricting the community use, this will not undermine other existing ones in the area.”

 

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