Speldhurst pitch plans must be rejected says Parish Council

The existing recreation ground

AS PREVIOUSLY reported in the Times, Langton Green Community Sports Association (LGCSA) has submitted a planning application to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) for the creation of a new floodlit all-weather playing surface on the land next to Langton Green Recreation Centre.

Despite many comments being left in favour of the application on the TWBC Planning Portal, the Speldhurst Parish Council (SPC) planning committee has ‘unanimously’ recommended the rejection of the application following its meeting on February 12.

The meeting was attended by 40 members of the public, one of whom spoke in favour of the 3G pitch – a representative from LGCSA – and it appeared that the remainder were objecting to the application.

Those in favour of the application thanked LGCSA for raising funds from the Football Foundation and believed the site was perfect for such a facility as it was close to the school and the infrastructure already in place. Although they had concerns about the rubber crumb surface and suggested other surfaces could be investigated.

However, the 18 speakers who objected to the planning application raised diverse concerns:

• Many comments on the portal came from non-parish residents.

• The local primary school opposed the application, citing no support.

• Lack of notice and consultation with LGCSA left nearby residents uninformed.

• Environmental impacts, particularly on wildlife like deer, bats, great crested newts, and elderly horses, raised concerns.

• Light pollution threatened the village’s cherished dark skies.

• Alternative pitches nearby, like Bennett Memorial, St Gregory’s, and Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, were pointed out.

• Criticism of antisocial hours and a late 10pm curfew was voiced.

• Traffic volume, flooding worries, damage to flora/fauna, negative impact on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and microplastic contamination concerns were highlighted.

• Finally, the restriction of access to an open field by introducing a 3G pitch was contested.

Local resident Jane Court told the Times: “I urge readers to understand what an artificial 3G pitch is made of. I didn’t know three weeks ago. I question why recycled tyres banned from UK landfill and under investigation by DEFRA has any place in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Greenbelt.

“Langton Green is a pretty village in a rural setting without streetlights. This proposal significantly impacts our community, environment and infrastructure. The roads are already dangerous and parking a nightmare.

“Exercise is important, but we have a moral responsibility to protect our countryside and dark skies from light and microplastic pollution for future generations”.

Following the public’s comments, the planning committee provided their recommendation for the application, which will be circulated to SPC’s councillors ahead of the full council meeting on March 4.

The planning committee recognised the importance of children playing sports and acknowledged it would be beneficial to have outdoor facilities which can be used all year round regardless of weather conditions. But after careful consideration, they concluded that this planning application goes ‘way beyond an all-weather pitch’ and ‘the negatives far outweigh the positives.’

A general concern was that the applicant had not undertaken any community engagement or public consultation before submitting the planning application. This was despite informing SPC earlier in 2023 that they would be doing so.

They also highlighted that with many of the supporters of the application not living in the Parish or not living close to the area which will be most affected, it further reinforced the ‘risk’ and the ‘concerns’ about the ability of the local infrastructure to cope with the influx of potential users.

LGCSA Chair, Guy Lambert commented: “LGCSA have been actively involved in community engagement in this project since December. We have been in general discussions with SPC for over a year and a half and asked them to submit in writing any questions they may have had about the application, in order that we could forward them to the relevant professionals. We have heard nothing from SPC.

“The decision of the planning committee to recommend refusal is disappointing but requires confirmation from the Full Council at a meeting to be held next Monday. We await the outcome of this with interest.”

Any final decision on the application will be made at a later date by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s Planning Committee.

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