New sports facilities at Christ’s Hospital including a new athletics running track, all-weather pitch and sports centre extension have been refused by councillors.
The school wants permission for a two-storey extension to its current Bluecoats Sports Centre, which would house a new swimming pool, spa facilities, two studios and a fitness suite.
A new running track with supporting athletic facilities, a 3G multi-use pitch and an adventure trail are also proposed alongside extra parking spaces and new access from Christ’s Hospital Road.
However a planning application for the works was refused by Horsham District Council’s planning committee north on Tuesday night (January 8), with the majority of councillors going against the officers’ recommendation to approve the plans.
Simon Reid, headmaster of Christ’s Hospital School, described how the plans were part of a drive to increase pupil and staff engagement in regular exercise, while also continuing to offer community groups use of its facilities.
Providing a running track was a long-held aspiration for the school, with a former pupil being a major donor to the project on the condition that the track is open for use by the community.
However objectors raised concerns about extra traffic on the nearby narrow roads, the effect of more light and noise on nearby residents as well as the impact of the new structures on the character and landscape of the area.
Meanwhile Derek Moore, speaking for Southwater Parish Council, argued that the application was contrary to countryside planning policies with no identified need for the facilities in any official documents.
Although generally supportive of new sports facilities a number of councillors suggested the harm to the landscape character of the rural area and impact on neighbouring properties outweighed the benefits of the scheme.
Several speakers also asked if there was an identified need for a running track given the current facilities at Broadbridge Heath, which could be moved by HDC.
Billy Greening (Con, Southwater) said: “This is a flawed application which will lead to irreversible harm to the local area.”
Fellow local member John Chidlow took particular issue with the proposed 18 metre-high floodlights as being particularly out of character with the surrounding area and also raised their proximity to residential properties.
Meanwhile Claire Vickers, another Southwater councillor, added: “Improving sports facilities is something we should always be encouraging and the school has every right to want to improve the facilities it provides for its own pupils. However it’s a sensitive location in the countryside and close to residential properties. There will be ecology and highways impacts and some detriment to the setting of the listed building.”
However planning officers pointed out that HDC’s environmental health team had raised no objection relating to the impact of the floodlights on nearby properties, with a condition requiring a detailed lighting assessment.
West Sussex County Council as the highways authority had not objected to the application either, while significant tree and soft landscaping planting was being proposed.
But Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) said: “We have a responsibility to protect our environment for future generations and we have policies in place for this and to actually ignore those on an unproven local community need is surely not acceptable.”