THE HEADMASTER of KES has vowed to appeal a decision to yet again reject plans for houses on the school’s playing fields in Stratford.
Plans to build six homes on part of King Edward VI playing fields in Manor Road were refused by planning chiefs at a recent meeting of Stratford District Council’s planning committee.
Councillors voted six votes to five against the plans which were submitted for approval a second time following tweaks to combat opposition.
But the committee flew in the face of a recommendation by planning officers to grant the proposal amid concerns about insufficient parking, protection of trees and loss of green space.
The school’s headmaster Bennet Carr stressed the future of a separate and long-standing proposal to redevelop the playing fields and build a state-of-the-art community sports hub including a floodlit pitch – as well as refurbish the grade II listed pavilion – depended upon on the granting of the planning application to fund the £1million plus project.
He said the benefits of the playing fields redevelopment would benefit both the school and the community, who would be able to use the much-improved facilities out of school hours.
A petition in support of the homes plans in order to fund the sports facilities attracted over 1,600 signatures, while sports clubs in the town have also backed the proposal.
Staunch opponents include Stratford Town Council, SDC ward member Coun Kate Rolfe and Sports England.
The re-submission comes after an appeal last year in which the Planning Inspectorate accepted the principle of the housing development on the proposed site provided two specific design concerns were addressed – the position of one of the proposed houses in relation to a neighbouring property and the loss of five trees.
Mr Carr pointed out planning practice guidance stated that “the persistence by a local planning authority objecting to a scheme or elements of a scheme which an inspector has previously indicated to be acceptable is an example of unreasonable behaviour”.
He said the school therefore planned to appeal to the Inspectorate together with a request for a full award of costs.
He continued: “It is, of course, frustrating that our efforts to provide the sporting facilities that the school and town so desperately need have been further delayed, especially as we have done everything asked of us.
“It is ironic that it is the district council who are responsible for providing sports facilities for the community, yet they are the ones who seem determined to prevent us providing them by choosing to ignore both the decision of the Planning Inspectorate and the professional opinion their own officers.”
Chairman of Stratford Hockey Club, Mark Reynolds, is supporting the school.
He said: “This is an incredibly disappointing decision of certain district councillors who despite the council’s own planning department’s recommendation have nevertheless denied or at least further delayed this much needed scheme. It leaves Stratford’s residents without these desperately needed sports facilities whilst its council taxpayers now, in effect, face picking up the legal costs.
“Given the vast number of new housing that has already been approved in Stratford for little to no community benefit, this particular decision, relating as it does to just six plots whilst unlocking huge community benefits, seems all the more disappointing as well as baffling.”
A spokesperson for SDC said: “We can confirm that the planning committee has set out its reasoning in making its decision.”