Sports facilities at Christ’s Hospital turned down again

Christ's Hospital School wants permission for new sports facilities including a running track, 3G pitch and extension to the Bluecoats Centre
Christ's Hospital School wants permission for new sports facilities including a running track, 3G pitch and extension to the Bluecoats Centre

Plans to build an all-weather running track and expand the sports centre at Christ’s Hospital School have been refused for a second time.

The application, which would allow the outside community to use new facilities such as a 3G pitch and swimming pool, had been rejected in January.

Members of Horsham District Council’s planning committee north were concerned about the impact on locals from increased noise and light and fears the changes would harm the landscape.

The plans were resubmitted with a number of changes and considered again on Tuesday (September 3).

But although the height of the floodlights were reduced, the adventure trail scaled down, and the athletics track lowered, members were still not happy.

One of the main concerns came from Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), who said there would be an ‘unacceptable increase in traffic on very narrow and rather dangerous roads’ if the plans were allowed.

Although similar concerns had been raised in January, they had not been listed among the reasons to refuse. With no objections offered by the West Sussex highways team, officers had said it was ‘not warranted’ to do so.

As such, the committee could not add traffic worries to the reasons to refuse this time.

Another concern centred around the future of the running track at Broadbridge Heath.

It has long been feared that, if a new track was built at Christ’s Hospital, the Broadbridge Heath one would be closed and the site freed up for development.

Those fears were given weight when Billy Greening (Con, Southwater North) said he had had ‘guarantees that if we vote for this we will shut Broadbridge Heath and build on it’.

Mr Greening said: “Does today set off the firing gun for building houses on the running track at Broadbridge Heath? That really worries me.”

With mutters of concern from the public gallery, the planning officer told him: “What may or may not happen with Broadbridge Heath is not material to this planning application.”

Another concern faced by the council was the threat of an appeal by Christ’s Hospital – an appeal which could cost thousands to defend and even more if it was upheld.

Charmain Hawkins, a heritage and planning consultant acting on behalf of the school, said an appeal against January’s refusal had been lodged – but that they would be willing to withdraw it if members approved the latest application.

The committee discussed the application for more than an hour, trying to find a balance between the benefits to the community and the possible harm to location.

They showed nothing but support for Christ’s Hospital and several said they would support the application if it was only for school use.

But in the end they felt not enough had been done to address the concerns raised in January.

While officers felt the application should be approved, members voted to refuse it on the grounds that it was inappropriate for the countryside and that concerns about the impact on the landscape had not been addressed.