Shropshire Star

Hundreds oppose fencing off grass pitches in Telford school extension plan

School extension and refurbishment plans, which include fencing off football pitches to restrict public access, have attracted around 500 complaints.

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A view of the new block - proposed for Holy Trinity Academy, in Priorslee - from the southwest. Picture: Bond Bryan Architects / Telford and Wrekin Council

Telford and Wrekin Council has applied to build a new three-storey teaching block with changing rooms and lay one full-size artificial pitch and one five-a-side grass pitch at Holy Trinity Academy in Priorslee.

The plan also includes building an eight-foot fence around the existing grass field to the west of the site.

Telford MP Lucy Allan is among those who have lodged objections, saying the “public green space” is “used and valued” by the community.

The borough’s Planning Committee will discuss the proposal on Wednesday, December 14, and council officers recommend they approve the change which they say will result in safer and better-maintained facilities.

The officers’ report says: “Holy Trinity Academy is a 900-place secondary school, including a 150-place sixth form, located off Teece Drive in Priorslee.”

It says the school expansion is needed due to population increases. A feasibility study, commissioned by Telford and Wrekin Council, concluded Holy Trinity was the “preferred option for a new 300-place teaching block”, it says, adding that, if approved, the block would be built to the north of the existing school and also accommodate 24 staff.

“It is proposed to remove the existing grass pitch to the east of the site and replace it with a 3G pitch with floodlights,” the report adds, noting that this facility would be surrounded by a 4.5-metre fence and six 15-metre floodlight masts.

To the west of the site, “the existing grass pitches are proposed to be enclosed with green 2.4-metre steel mesh fencing with gated access”, it adds.

“It is proposed that, along with the existing school sports facilities and the proposed 3G pitch, access to the external pitches would be made available through a community use agreement,” officers write.

The details of this agreement would be negotiated between Telford and Wrekin Council and Sport England, and finalised before the fence goes up, they add.

Holy Trinity Academy in Priorslee

The report notes that Ms Allan, who has represented Telford at Westminster since 2015, objected to the enclosure of the pitches and “requests that members of the Planning Committee give full consideration to the impact of the loss of this amenity”.

St Georges and Priorslee Parish Council also objected.

The report says it pointed out the pitches were “gifted to the community by Baron Stafford in 1991 for recreational use”, and fencing them off would make them “no longer be freely available” for spontaneous use.

Members also raised concerns about “noise from evening use of the 3G pitch” and an increase in traffic resulting from the school extension.

Priorslee councilllor Veronica Fletcher issued a “call-in” notice, requesting that the application be decided in public by the committee rather than by planning officers.

Her concerns also included “loss of light, overshadowing and loss of privacy to houses east of the site”.

“The public consultation process has resulted in circa 500 comments and objections,” the report adds, and the majority of points raised by these concern the enclosure of the council-owned pitches.

“The LPA [local planning authority] recognises the significant level of objection,” officers write.

“However, it is considered that the planning merits of the proposal outweigh the disadvantages of the enclosure of this space.

“It would ensure the school can meet its requirements for the provision of outside sports space, while also allowing the better safeguarding of children within the school.

“Access to the pitches, which will have an improved scheme of maintenance and reduced risk of damage through misuse, will also be made available to residents and sports groups through a strict community use agreement.”

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