Otley sports pitch proposals spark row between school and residents

Mr Vincent Pickersgill photographed the location of the current pitch from his back garden. The new pitch would be built over the current pitch.
Mr Vincent Pickersgill photographed the location of the current pitch from his back garden. The new pitch would be built over the current pitch.
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Residents are objecting to an Otley school’s proposal to build an all-weather sports pitch in the middle of a residential area.

Prince Henry’s Grammar School are hoping to gain council approval for a football pitch for the school and local community.

Mr Vincent Pickersgill photographed the location of the current pitch from his back garden. The new pitch would be built over the current pitch.

Mr Vincent Pickersgill photographed the location of the current pitch from his back garden. The new pitch would be built over the current pitch.

The school have said that the proposed pitch would be located at the front of school and replace the existing rugby pitch.

The school anticipates that at least 50% of the cost of the project would be met through funding from the Football Foundation.

They hold to secure investment from Otley Town Council and are preparing to submit a grant application to Sport England.

However, people who live near the school have raised concerns about the floodlights, late opening times, noise and traffic.

The proposed plan of the sports pitch sent in a letter to residents by Prince Henry's Grammar School.

The proposed plan of the sports pitch sent in a letter to residents by Prince Henry's Grammar School.

What have residents said?

Mrs Gillian Spencer, 66, retired civil servant, Prince Henry’s Court, Otley, said: “We have no objection to a sports pitch but it has to be in the right place.

“Luckily I’m 25 meters away, although that’s nothing when people are shouting, but some people are only 10-15 meters away which is only the length of a garden.

“Everyone says it’s great for the local community but a number of sports clubs have expressed an interest in using the pitch. We expect children to make noise but how would you feel hearing it from 9am to 10pm every night for the rest of your life?”

Mrs Spencer also noted that there was environmental issues to consider including the plastic pitch being un-recyclable, the protected trees and bats that surround the area and the rubber crumb used in sports pitches that could pollute the air.

Rubber crumb is a substance produced from used tyres that keeps the artificial grass fibres upright and mimics natural soil.

Mr Vincent Pickersgill, 60, Joiner, Oatlands Drive, Otley, lives within 10 metres of the current school pitch and the proposed site for the new artificial pitch.

He said that the acoustic fencing will result in a 4.5 metre wall that will block out his natural morning light and that the floodlights will give him an artificial light in the autumn and winter months.

Mr Pickersgill said: "Until two years ago I worked in coaching for the rugby football union and I totally believe that sport can play an integral part in everyone's life. However, the site proposed is far too close to houses in the area.

"I want Otley to have this facility but not in the middle of a residential development. I defy anyone who visited my property to say that they would still want this if they lived here."

Mr Pickersgill also noted that there is seven 3G sports pitches within 6.5 miles of this proposed site.

What has the school said?

However, the headteacher of Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Janet Sherrif, said they have been in consultation with residents and made changes to the plans.

She said they have reduced the size of the pitch to move it away from neighbouring houses, opted for a more expensive lighting system with less light spillage and will be installing an acoustic fencing barrier to minimise noise.

The opening hours are yet to be finalised but the school has said they will embed terms and conditions about parking to ensure minimal disruption.

Janet Sheriff said: "Earlier this year, we were approached by the Football Foundation, as they had identified Otley as an area in need of a 3G football pitch.

"There are already several ‘key partner’ sports clubs from the local area who are involved in the project, including Otley Town FC, Otley Zebras, Weston Lane FC, Pool AFC, Otley RUFC and Menston FC Girls. It also has the support of Otley Town Council, Leeds City Council, Sport Chevin and the RFU.

"We are still in the final stages of designing the pitch, prior to seeking planning permission, and have taken into consideration many of the communities views.

"We are currently running an online survey for local residents regarding the pitch. There have been over 500 responses so far, of which more than 85% are positive."

What has Otley Town Council said?

Otley Town Councillor Ray Georgeson said: “The council believes there’s a shortage of all weather pitches in the town - in fact there isn’t one. There is a clear need for one.

The town council has an investment fund which the school has applied to. The first stage was an expression of interest stage which was approved.

Coun Georgeson said: "We can’t accept an application for Council’s investment fund without the planning application in place so as it stands they still have to satisfy Leeds City Council. Until then there’s no point speculating any further.

"Understandably some residents are very upset about what they perceive as a distribution but they do live near a big high school. I think the school has made a lot of effort to understand the residents' concerns."

What have MPs said?

Alex Sobel, Leeds North West MP (Labour), said: "Whilst I do support facilities for young people that encourage healthy lifestyles we must ensure this is in the correct place for this pitch. I will be writing to the school and Leeds City Council planning to ensure all alternatives have been properly considered.

"As the school are not funding the work I would also wish to see the ring fencing of revenue from the pitch for community use, and not decided on solely by the school.

"The school are preparing to submit planning permission and I will be submitting their thoughts via a survey when it is available."

The school have said that if proposals are approved the surface will be ready to use by September 2019.

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