Long term view taken in sports pitch to housing refusal

The development of a disused sports field for 54 new homes and the re-siting and re-laying of an existing grass playing pitch was refused in a settlement in East Sussex with an existing housing supply deficit, for conflict with the recreational safeguarding policies of the emerging local plan and the NPPF.

The appeal site was the subject of a specific, emerging site’s allocation plan policy for playing pitches for formal sport, ancillary changing facilities, a community hub and open space. The allocations plan, although not yet adopted, had been found sound and the inspector therefore afforded the policy full weight in his deliberations. The land was also a designated Asset of Community Value. 

With regards the loss of half of the land to housing and the adequacy of the replacement facility in quantitative and qualitative terms the inspector accepted the council’s evidence showed that the open space/sports facility of the appeal site ground was not surplus to requirements and the test in 97(a) of the NPPF on existing open space and sport and recreation land was not satisfied. The inspector was concerned that there was no provision for a replacement small covered grandstand as it existed before and that the axis of the replacement pitch would be fundamentally wrong in practical terms. Moreover, the pitch was to be sited very close to the housing with the illustrative layout plan resulting in both being very constrained. The inspector concluded that even if the proposed football pitch made alternative provision for sport and recreation in quantitative terms, the proposal had not been shown to make adequate alternative provision in qualitative terms. 

In the planning balance, the inspector accepted the appellant’s position that the mixed development with housing was the only realistic practical alternative put forward to achieve a new football pitch sooner rather than later. He gave limited weight to the deliverability of a local community scheme for recreation and community uses particularly given the landowner's apparent refusal to sell the site. However, he opined that the likely imminent adoption of the allocations plan meant the provision of housing in the district would soon be well planned for to meet and probably exceed the strategic requirements. As such, the inspector placed much weight on the long-term opportunity for the site to be used for sport, recreation and open space purposes and dismissed the appeal. 

Inspector: David Murray; Hearing

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