New school playing field approved despite vocal opposition

The land which will be used for the new sports facilities
The land which will be used for the new sports facilities
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Plans for a new school playing field have been given the go ahead despite vocal opposition from residents living near the site.

Public land in Thorpe Lea Meadows near a housing estate will now become two pitches, a running track, mobile classroom and changing facilities for the use of pupils at West Town Primary Academy, surrounded by a 2.4m fence.

The application submitted by Peterborough City Council was said to “benefit generations of children.”

The plans were approved by the council’s Planning and Environmental Protection Committee on Tuesday despite the authority receiving 45 objections due to fears over noise, anti-social behaviour, the visual impact and the loss of public space.

All of the complaints were disputed by the council and the school, with the former stating that another grassed area would be brought back into use as mitigation

The objectors also claimed another viable site was available at Angus Court which was only 300m further away.

City councillor Alan Dowson told the committee: “I feel that this planning application is just not justified for the residents of the area when Angus Court is available.”

Jill Murdoch, vice chair of the Thorpe Gate Residents Association, said the school and council had not demonstrated the need for the site and that its development would be an “unnecessary cost to the taxpayer.”

Harry Machin from the residents association added: “There’s a real visual impact. It completely blocks off views of the cathedral.”

The school, which is run by the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT), moved into its new £6 million building built on the site of the former Peterborough District Hospital in Thorpe Road in November 2016.

Trust CEO Mark Woods said the Angus Court site was “inadequate” with “no safeguarding,” and he disagreed with the objectors who claimed the walk to Angus Court was safer than crossing over at the traffic lights at Thorpe Road.

Mr Woods also claimed “occasionally school leaders feel damned if they do and damned if they don’t” in response to competing complaints that the new playing field will either be used too much or not enough.

The CEO also brushed off noise concerns, stating that the field can be used now at all hours, and that the pitches could discourage anti-social behaviour.

Committee member and cabinet member for planning Cllr Peter Hiller praised Mr Woods’ “passion” and “logical argument,” adding: “the benefits to the school are apparent and obvious.”

Cllr Graham Casey said: “This is a good news story. Normally we are talking about playing fields being closed and obesity in children. This looks like a really good facility and can benefit generations of children to come.”

Following the meeting Mr Woods said: “We are delighted by the decision made by the planning committee which will provide a suitable and safe playing field and facilities for the children of West Town Primary Academy.

“Through our close working relationship with Peterborough City Council, West Town Primary Academy has transformed into a ‘Good’ school in modern school facilities. However, the school’s original playing field and facilities were inadequate, difficult to access and presented significant safeguarding concerns.

“The creation of the new playing field is supported by Sport England and will dramatically improve the outdoor, sports and physical education opportunities for our young people, and help to place the school back at the very heart of its local community.

2We want to teach young people to value and enjoy a healthy lifestyle and the wonderful learning opportunities that lie within their community and this simple facility will enable that.

“We will continue to work with the wider local community, and in particular the Thorpe Gate Residents Association, to alleviate as many of their concerns as we possibly can.”