Councillors reject St Mary’s playing field planning application

By Jason Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

St Marys School playing fields residents civic ctre photo ldrsA community has been celebrating after plans for a large housing scheme on former St Mary’s School playing fields were rejected.



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Councillors went against the recommendation of planning officers over the proposal for 84 dwellings to be built on the green space at a Planning and Rights of Way panel meeting last night (March 12).

Sovereign Network Group’s plans for land to the rear of the former St Mary’s Independent School in Midanbury Lane attracted more than 180 resident objections.

Members of the panel refused planning permission due to the impact on existing residential amenity, the design and character of the proposal and the loss of open space.

There was standing room only in the Civic Centre conference room as members of the public watched events unfold.

Planning case officer Rob Sims, who recommended approving the application, said the overall benefits outweighed the loss of the open space and change of use for the site.

Sovereign said grant funding had been secured from Homes England, which would have allowed the developer to provide the scheme as 100 per cent affordable housing in the form of social rent and shared ownership properties.

St Marys School playing fields residents civic ctre photo ldrsResidents celebrate on the Civic Centre steps following the decision. Photo: LDRS

The proposed housing mix was eight one-bed apartments, 24 two-bed apartments, 27 two-bed houses, 22 three-bed houses and three four-bed houses.

Concerns were raised by objectors at the meeting over the loss of the open space, increased traffic, road layout, flooding problems and heightened demand on public services.

They described the site as “the last remaining green space in this area”.

David Fuller, who is part of the resident opposition committee, said the loss of the “green oasis” would do “permanent” and “irreversible” damage to the city.

“This site is entirely inappropriate for this application and deserves the protection of this panel from development,” Mr Fuller said.

There was uncertainty over whether anyone had been able to access the field in its current form.

The applicant stated it was fenced off and the land was not required by Charlton House School and Yarrow Heights School, which now operate at the former St Mary’s Independent School site.

Residents at the meeting said children often played in the field in the summer months.

While Sovereign had committed to making a £613,000 contribution towards improving sports facilities at nearby Riverside Park, Sport England had maintained its objection to the proposed loss of the former school playing fields.

David Ramsay, from planning agent Vail Williams on behalf of the applicant, said: “The proposals will result in a place which responds positively to its surroundings and will create a balanced community of family homes to suit people of all ages.”

sovereign proposed dev area 600px The green space. Photo:

Jenny Grote, assistant director of new business at Sovereign, told the panel the development would provide much-needed affordable housing in the city.

Referencing the community response to the application, she said: “We are aware local residents are anxious about the proposal and it is natural to have these concerns with any new development, however, we can assure members of the committee and the public we are invested in our communities.”

Panel member Cllr Jaden Beaurain said: “As much as I appreciate and understand the positives of the development in terms of housing, I am really struggling to come up that on balance this would be a good thing.”

Vice chair Cllr Vivienne Windle said she would not be happy for the application to go through in its current form.

She said: “There are too many things in this planning balance that aren’t quite settled.”

Cllr John Savage, who chairs the panel, said the public interest had made it one of the “most popular” visits to the Civic Centre.

Members of the panel rejected the application by a margin of three votes to one. After councillors voted to refuse the scheme, a large round of applause broke out in the public gallery.

Decision time on 84-dwelling plan for St Mary's School green space?

ldrs logo 200px This article is from the Local Democracy Reporting Service or Shared Data Unit. Some alterations and additions may have been made by our site, which is a partner in the BBC's Local News Partnerships scheme. LDRS journalists are funded by the BBC to cover local authorities and other public service organisations, and content is shared with all partners.

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