Thursday, 12 January 2012

Revised Arden pitch plan approved

ARDEN school has won permission for an artificial sports pitch on its field after reaching a “compromise” with neighbours.

arden school

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Councillors last night approved the “multi-use games area” covering six tennis or five netball courts for the quarter of the field nearest the school and Station Road.

Headteacher Martin Murphy and residents handed planning committee members a circular listing what they could and could not agree on.

While they backed 8am to 6am opening in the week, residents did not support its use from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.

Yet both agreed on measures including noise deadening rebound panels and secure locking of the facility.

And the school has revised plans so it is a metre from gardens, fencing is 3m not 5m and a planned long jump landing pit is now nearest the school.

The committee backed a 9am to 6pm opening on Saturdays, which Mr Murphy told The Silhillian would be open to the wider community.

But residents still raised concerns after the plan was approved. Some 22 officially objected to the scheme.

Station Road resident Terry Grove told councillors: “It will cause noise, nuisance and loss of visual amenity to a large number of residents.”

He said consultation - which comes amid a scramble to get it built by March to qualify for Government cash - had been “flawed, rushed [and] lacked consultation”.

Residents have backed a previous plan, approved by the council, to put the facility at the bottom of the field. But the school said this would take pupils too long to walk to.

Mr Grove said: “Are the committee really convinced that time and less mud warrant the impact to neighbours?” It would take two minutes to walk to, he said.

A meeting was held with the school “in the spirit of being constructive” but they could not agree on longer Saturday opening hours.

He sought assurances that the school would not later apply for floodlighting but the committee said it could not make this a condition of being given permission.

Mr Grove said conditions put on previous planning applications were later ignored (see here) and “in the spirit of establishing a new era” urged they stick to new conditions.

Mr Murphy, who took over from Ann Green in September, said: “We must use public money in the best way possible. We have a duty of care to our young people.”

He said: “The previous site was poor. It largely precluded it from community use.”

That site, smaller than the new plan, would not provide parking or disabled access as it was a five minute walk from the school, he said.

Mr Murphy said: “The MUGA sits very firmly with the new Government agenda of supporting schools and schools becoming the centre of community sport.”

Committee member and Knowle resident Jeffrey Potts said: “I’m really pleased to see Mr Murphy has been working with neighbours.”

Fellow councillor John Windmill said: “This is a welcome change [in] the relationship between the residents and the school.”

He said: “Let’s hope there can be a healthier relationship between the school and the residents under the new broom that is obviously sweeping clean.”

But Jim Ryan said: “I’m concerned about the impact on local residents.”

The committee was told the race to get it built to get Government cash should not be taken into account as a material planning consideration.”

After the meeting at the council’s Solihull offices, Mr Grove, who attended with nine other residents, said: “We support the school but this is application by stealth.”

He said residents were concerned the agreement between the school and neighbours would now not be set as official conditions in the plan.

He said: “The councillors never listened to a single word.”

He said: “We would like to see a new era. The way you can do that is actually build in the conditions and make they will be delivered upon.”

Mr Murphy told The Silhillian: “The site will be open to the community.

“We are delighted that it is going to take place.

“This will have a huge impact on opportunities for young people in the wider community.”

The facility would be open before and after school and on Saturday for community groups like Sea Scouts, he said.

Mr Murphy said: “We have a very positive relationship with the residents and look forward to working fully with them in the future.”

Committee chairman Stuart Davis will incorporate the circular into conditions where they meet planning rules with head of planning Gary Palmer.

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