By Jenni Davidson
Dorothy Stringer High School got the go-ahead to build a new all-weather pitch today after plans were approved by Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee this afternoon (Wednesday 14 May).
The new floodlit pitch will be 86m x 56m, which is a full-size football pitch for children aged under 14 and large enough for adults to play 9-a-side. It can also be used for other sports, such as hockey.
The facility will be used by the school during the day and by the local community in the evening and at weekends.
Concerns had been raised by residents of nearby streets about the impact of glare from the 15m high floodlights, noise pollution and increased car use in the area.
A previous planning application for a full-size (107m x 76 m) football pitch was refused on 16 December 2013 on the grounds that it would involve cutting down two protected elm trees and that not enough evidence had be given about the impact of noise and light pollution on the school’s neighbours.
As well as being smaller, today’s plans have reduced the number of floodlights from 16 to 12, increased the amount acoustic fencing to prevent noise pollution and the two elm trees will now be unaffected.
A clump of semi-mature trees by the swimming pool that will have to be removed will be replaced by 30 new trees.
Councillor Ken Norman, the ward councillor for Withdean, spoke against the plans on behalf of fellow ward councillor Ann Norman and local residents.
Councillor Norman referred to “an overwhelming number” of residents who had contacted him to complain about the proposal, as well as residents from a neighbouring ward whose houses overlook the school campus.
He said: “We have not had anyone contact us who is in favour of this application and when we called on residents the vast majority stated that they would be seriously affected by this proposal and did not want it to go ahead.”
He added that the pitch would be a disproportionate amount of disruption for residents seven days a week and no measures could mitigate against the increase in cars that would be the result.
Councillor Norman also called the proposal to remove the 30 trees that had been planted as a condition of a previous planning application by the school to build a news sports hall “quite bizarre”.
Mr David MacDonald, a resident of Loder Road opposite the school, also spoke in opposition of the proposal, saying the pitch was “unneeded, unsustainable and will drastically alter the nature of our neighbourhood.”
He said that many of the families living nearby were had young children who go to bed before the pitch’s weekday closing time of 9pm.
Speaking in support of the application, Dorothy Stringer headmaster Richard Bradford explained that the new pitch was necessary because outdoor sport was not currently possible for much of the year due to poor drainage.
He added that there was a need for more all-weather facilities in Brighton and Hove, but few suitable sites, and that this would be a facility for the whole community, not just for the school.
Dorothy Stringer High School is a specialist sports school and Albion in the Community will work with the school to provide coaching sessions for children on the new pitch.
Community feeling was divided over the plans, with 112 people writing to the council to object to the proposed pitch and 147 writing in favour.
Councillor Bob Carden spoke warmly in favour of the application, comparing the sports facilities he had seen on holiday in Spain with what is available here and suggesting that could be the reason he saw so few English players in international football.
“If we want our kids to play football, to get into sport, we’ve got to provide the pitches,” he said.
Councillor Alan Robins said he had never heard of 9-a-side football before but told the committee: “I’m going to support it and if I ever fancy a game of 9-a-side, I’m going to go there.”
While there was general recognition of a need for more all-weather facilities in the city, concern was expressed by a number of councillors about the possible effect on residents, particularly in terms of opening hours.
Councillor Leo Littmann stated that he felt the school had done just enough correct the problems with the previous application.
Councillor Ben Duncan also sounded a note of caution for the school, pointing out that some of the responses to the planning application suggested a deterioration of relations between the school and the community and he expressed the hope that this would not get worse.