Academy head defends 3G pitch plans amid criticisms

W09300H13-Midwinter - W09315H13-Midwinter  090413  LP''Sir Robert Woodard School. Feature on the new headmaster Peter Midwinter. Lancing. ENGSUS00120130904140015
W09300H13-Midwinter - W09315H13-Midwinter 090413 LP''Sir Robert Woodard School. Feature on the new headmaster Peter Midwinter. Lancing. ENGSUS00120130904140015

A HEAD teacher has strongly defended proposals for a 3G sports pitch in light of complaints from neighbours.

Peter Midwinter, head of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, in Upper Boundstone Lane, Lancing, has organised extra consultation sessions after objections were lodged over the £700,000 project.

Complaints include fears over light pollution from floodlights, noise and increased traffic – but Mr Midwinter believes the proposals will be hugely beneficial to the wider community.

He said: “This is a £700,000 project to provide an all-weather facility for not just the school but also all four local primary schools and the community, and bearing in mind all the ill-health of the people of Lancing and Sompting, any health opportunities are a benefit.

“The overriding factor has to be the benefits it brings to the community, to the school environment and the aspirations, health and wellbeing for the students and the community we serve.”

Sompting Parish Council’s planning committee debated its stance on the application last Wednesday. The committee raised an objection on the grounds it could increase traffic, there was insufficient off-street parking, the residential area was ‘unsuitable for business activity’ and it would be ‘detrimental to the amenities’ of neighbouring properties.

The committee was ‘deeply concerned’ that noise generated outside of school hours would be ‘unacceptable’.

It questioned whether all factors had been accounted for in the school’s noise impact assessment, which suggests mitigation measures such as acoustic screening would reduce the impact on residents from ‘moderate’ to slight’.

The final decision rests with Adur District Council’s planning committee, which will determine the plans at a later date.

Conservative councillors have called for the consultation period to be extended.

The academy will host further consultation sessions between 7pm and 8pm on Thursday and between 10am and 11am on Friday. A public meeting, chaired by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, will be held at the United Reformed Church, in Cokeham Road, Sompting, on Saturday, February 6 from 2pm.

Mr Midwinter said he had sent hundreds of letters to s residents to inform them of the plans. He said the facility would match those of neighbouring schools in Worthing and Shoreham. He feared the issue had become ‘politicised’.

The issue has provoked strong debate, with UKIP and Conservative councillors clashing. An ‘Intouch’ leaflet circulated by the Tories accused UKIP of ‘unhelpful’ suggestions that the plans had already been decided.

Lyn Phillips, UKIP councillor for Cokeham ward, claimed residents do not want the pitch, with no mitigation suitable to counter the ‘life-changing impact’.

She said the Tories were not listening to their electorate and she had been unsuccessfully in pursauding them to hold a public meeting over a year ago.

In her official objection, she compared prospective noise from cricket nets – the sound of ‘leather on willow’ – to ‘gun shots’.

She added: “The pitch is virtually on the doorstep of the residents in Upper Boundstone Lane and it is obvious to everyone who lives in Lancing and Sompting that it will indeed cause massive disruption, noise, light pollution, increase in traffic, risk of flooding which will, in a very short time, irreparably, destroy the resident’s (sic) quality of life for the foreseeable future.”

The pitch will be funded by legal payments from the Brighton and Hove Albion training ground.