Improved playing field provision benefit rejected and unjustified

Plans to erect up to 50 dwellings on a playing field in Suffolk were rejected because of significant opposition by Sport England (SE).

The scheme involved almost 4ha of land containing two football pitches, a training pitch, small pavilion and a car park and the appellant planned to demolish two houses and build the new dwellings on the northern part of the land which contained one of the playing fields. The pavilion would be extended and upgraded and a new multi-use, all-weather pitch would be provided on the existing training pitch. The appellant supported by local sports clubs and the scouts stated that the overall benefits were sufficient to offset the net loss of one pitch. It would enable the football club to host matches and improve the level of changing facilities. Wider community use would also be possible.

In contrast the council supported by SE highlighted the results of a plying field assessment which predicted a shortage on plying fields and whilst this was seven years old the appellant had not sought to contradict or update its findings. The cost of providing an all-weather pitch had also been underestimated the council alleged and the improvements to the pavilion were unclear.

No alternative and improved provision for the playing field was proposed the inspector held which conflicted with the council’s policy and in addition it would involve building on part of the town’s green infrastructure. It would exacerbate the shortage of playing fields and the information on how the pavilion would be improved and what works would be done to improve the second pitch were unclear. The all-weather pitch could be very useful to the local community but much would depend on its quality and again information on this matter was lacking the inspector decided who also noted that the planned size made it likely to be less suitable for older players. No cogent business plan had been provided to indicate how the scheme would benefit the wider community and consequently the scheme was not acceptable.

Inspector: Isobel McCretton; Hearing

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