It was billed as a sports facility which could benefit thousands of children – but scores of residents feared their quality of life would be destroyed.
That was the contrast facing Adur District Council’s planning committee tonight, when asked to determine Sir Robert Woodard Academy’s plans for an artificial 3G pitch (Monday, September 5).
The Lancing school, in Upper Boundstone Lane, was granted permission for the facility after an emotive debate, by a margin of four votes to two.
It was a decision which left scores of residents, who packed the Shoreham Centre to attend the meeting, ‘devastated’ and ‘angry’.
But supporters of the plans argued the pitch, to be located at the academy in Upper Boundstone Lane, would help cut obesity and a high rate of early mortality.
Addressing the committee, academy principal Peter Midwinter said: “It seems so coincidental that we are having this conversation in an Olympic year, that we are looking to curtail the opportunities of young people and the community from what could be a most fantastic sports facility that would provide for so many people.”
The £700,000 sports pitch has been a contentious application, with debate stretching back months.
Neighbouring residents, joined in objection by Sompting Parish Council, raised concerns including noise, increased traffic and light pollution from floodlights.
They were backed by district and county UKIP councillors, including Cokeham’s Lyn Phillips.
She said: “This site is totally unacceptable. How can this be right to disrupt and create misery to people’s lives in this way?”
“If you go ahead and approve this application you are destroying the quality of life of all these people in this room by callously slapping an all-weather pitch right on their doorsteps operating all year round.”
Despite the concerns, no objections were raised by statutory consultees, including the council’s environmental health officer and Highways England.
District council cabinet member for health and wellbeing Dave Simmons, also chair of the academy’s school council, supported the plans.
He spoke of the health benefits of the facility, which he said could positively affect thousands of children.
Mr Midwinter denied claims the plans were a ‘commercial enterprise’.
He also pointed to schools in neighbouring authorities which had 3G pitches.
The committee ultimately sided with the school, with its two UKIP councillors in opposition not enough to outnumber four Tory votes for approval.
Widewater councillor Geoff Patmore said the plans would have a ‘permanent and severe impact’ on hundreds of residents.
UKIP’s Ken Bishop said the wellbeing of the community was ‘important’ but felt the pitch would be located in the wrong place.
Tory Brian Coomber said residents ‘don’t have the right to silence’, describing the plans as a ‘benefit to younger people’.
District council deputy leader Angus Dunn accused councillor Patmore of ‘playing to the gallery’. But he did raise concerns over noise, calling for more acoustic screening in addition to the planned 1.8 metre bund.
His call was backed by the committee.
See our live coverage of tonight’s meeting here.
See our live blog of the tonight’s meeting here.