Grammar school’s sports field opens – but it’s not for community use

Organiser Ingrid Pope [pictured] launched Tunbridge Wells Yard Sale last year after seeing a similar event in the US.

A STATE-of-the-art sports ground was opened at Tonbridge Grammar School last week after all local objections had been overcome.

The sloping grass field has been levelled to create three well-drained training spaces, one of which is a floodlit all-weather pitch.

The new facility, seven years in the making, includes a double long jump pit, a sprint track and cricket nets. There will also be a pavilion erected on the site.

The project was originally given the green light as far back as 2010 with a view to addressing ‘a particular shortage of facilities available to the community’ as well as boosting the school’s profile.

But wider usage was curtailed because when the application had to be resubmitted on a technicality in 2014, it was rejected because of an increase in traffic.

This was predicted to cause an ‘unacceptable level of disturbance’ to residents of Deakin Leas ‘at times when they could reasonably expect a certain level of peace and quiet’ since there is only one access to the school for vehicles.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s planners also decided that proposed floodlights for the artificial pitch ‘would be intrusive and harmful to the enjoyment’ of the school’s neighbours.

A compromise was reached which stopped the floodlights being illuminated and the field being used after 6.30pm during the school week – it had been proposed to remain open until 9.30pm.

At weekends all activities must cease by 2.30pm on Saturday instead of 6.30pm.

And there will be no sport staged there on Sundays, as had originally been put forward so that local sports clubs could benefit.

This amendment led to an objection by Sport England on the grounds that such a new facility should be made available to the local community.

But Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid chose not to intervene.

The second planning application, approved in July 2017 after the changes were made, stipulated the field can only be used by the school.

England hockey players Sophie Bray and Laura Unsworth attended the unveiling hot on the heels of their Commonwealth Games bronze medal.

They were joined by one of the City’s most prominent women, Dame Helena Morrissey, Head of Personal Investing at Legal and General Investment Management.

Headteacher Rosemary Joyce said: ‘There is growing recognition that an extensive, enriching sports programme for young people develops leadership skills, nurtures resilience, builds confidence and self-esteem, all of which help secure the foundations for a healthy, active life.’

PICTURE: PITCH PERFECT: Sophie Bray (left) and Laura Unsworth help unveil the new artificial surface

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