Thursday, 23 September 2021

School upsets neighbours over six new playing pitches

RESIDENTS are angry at plans by Shiplake College to create six new sports pitches.

The independent school wants to use 13 acres of farmland along Memorial Avenue and is expected to submit a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

But people living nearby have raised concerns about noise, safety and the loss of open landscape.

The college’s existing rugby pitches, which are owned by the Phillimore Estate, are by the river but in a poor condition and often unplayable due to flooding. The school also only leases them from September to December so they are unavailable for the spring term, when football is played, and in the summer.

The school says there has also been an increase in demand for the pitches, meaning they are overused and training sessions have to be curtailed. It says that replacing five pitches with six would alleviate pressure on ground maintenance.

The new pitches would be used up to four afternoons a week, plus Saturday mornings, during term time. They could also be used by Shiplake Primary School and the community.

The college says the pitches would sit “comfortably” within the surrounding area, which is also part of the Phillimore Estate.

But more than 20 residents of Memorial Avenue and Orchard Close have written to headteacher Gregg Davies to protest.

Chris Penrose, who lives in Orchard Close, said: “It’s dreadful. There’s the noise and the danger to the kids crossing the A4155. The college is saying it will change the kids at the school and walk them half a mile, which is just unrealistic. There will also be the loss of beautiful natural landscape.”

Mr Penrose attended a drop-in meeting organised by the college to discuss the proposal.

He said: “Just looking around the room there were a lot of angry people. I think it’s an imposing, unneighbourly thing to do, right on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and would severely impact this neighbourhood.”

Charles Tollit, who also lives in Orchard Close, said: “The proposal, as we understand it, will bring a significant increase in the pedestrian traffic and noise in the close. Orchard Close is a rural environment with very little traffic and noise. The second issue is the close is quite small, it has only 12 houses each side and at the end of it you have the memorial hall. The parking space at the memorial hall is so small that people often park in our close and across drives.

“If these pitches come to pass there will be a significant increase because there’s no provision for parking in the proposal. If people start parking in Memorial Avenue as well it could make it a very dangerous road.”

Barrie Evans, who lives in Memorial Avenue, said: “It’s a disaster — I would have these playing fields directly in front on my house. I actually had the house up for sale and received an offer that’s based on it having a lovely view.

“The college says it will request people to park in the college grounds. The reality of the situation, of course, is if it was cold and raining and people were dropping kids off they would park in Memorial Avenue.”

Other residents voiced their concerns on the Shiplake Villages website.

Joanne Stone said: “If they need pitches this is definitely not the best spot. If the primary school is an important consideration then why not consider the field on the other side of Memorial Avenue, where no road crossing is needed?

“Parking is definitely an issue and having pedestrians stepping out from that side of the hedge just sounds like an accident waiting to happen.”

Lucy Weatherston said: “Once this field is built on it could be the beginning of the end for it. How are Shiplake College children going to get to the field? Where will cars park for Saturday matches?

“This proposal does not have support from local residents. It also seems that Shiplake College is trying to use the primary school to further its cause, whereas actually the primary school is fairly neutral about the proposal and will continue to primarily use the Memorial Field for PE lessons.”

Dan and Wendy Nicholson said they feared it would lead to rugby clubs using the pitches.

Christine Atkinson said she believed the pitches would “spoil” the rural openness of the area.

Christopher Nash said: “I strongly object to his proposal. It will fragment the lovely open vista of the Shiplake countryside from the permissive paths surrounding these fields.

“It removes good farmland from productive use. Tall goal posts on each end of the pitches will be visually intrusive; kicking rugby balls over the posts will endanger passing vehicles.

“The proposal will encourage future applications for changing rooms, storage of equipment, ground preparation machines and parking.”

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