Sports pitches given go-ahead - despite environmental fears
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Two new pitches at a Suffolk independent school, which are linked to nearby new housing, have been approved - despite objections over the environmental impact.
Outline planning permission was granted for 69 homes on the existing sports pitches at St Felix School, off Halesworth Road, in February 2019.
However, replacements were required for those pitches.
The school has come forward with sites for two new sports pitches - one on a portion of mowed lawn used for cricket and athletics during the summer, directly to the south of the school buildings, with a second portion south of the existing sports pitches.
But the divisive plans generated objections from Reydon Parish Council, ward councillor David Beavan, Reydon Action Group for the Environment (RAGE) and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
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Among the issues were the location of the second pitch in a county wildlife site, the loss of at least six 100-year-old oak trees, and concerns that it went against the village's neighbourhood plan.
Despite the fears, East Suffolk Council's planning north committee last week voted by eight votes to one for the scheme to go ahead, citing the scheme's benefits as outweighing the harm.
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Councillor Norman Brooks said: "Sport is vital for our young people and everybody - we need to keep people active.
"I know there will be some damage to the area, however I think the advantages of the pitches and sport outweigh the damage that is going to be done."
James Harrison, headteacher at St Felix, said: "The application will provide quality playing pitches and have minimal impact on the surrounding area.
"These pitches are well-considered and form part of the school's key development plan going forward."
Sport England backed the scheme for the quality of pitches being proposed and the benefits it would have for both the school and wider community.
However, the council's planning committee heard fierce opposition to the proposals.
Stephen Chessher, from RAGE, said: "The development will result in the loss of a national priority habitat and a number of 100-year-old oak trees." He said it provided "limited or no community benefit".
Philip O'Hear, chairman of the parish council's planning committee, said the housing plans combined with the pitches resulted in "an unacceptable loss of open space".
Ward councillor David Beavan said: "It is purely so that the school can sell more land for housing to plug another hole in their finances for another few years".
A condition was attached to the plans that if the school did not continue in the future, the second sports pitch on the county wildlife site must be returned to use for wildlife.