Friday, 20 May 2022

School wants new sports pitches on old farmland

School wants new sports pitches on old farmland

SHIPLAKE College plans to create new sports pitches on former farmland.

The move comes as the independent school prepares to accept more girls and increase its sports provision.

The college bought the land on the opposite side of the A4155 Henley-Reading Road a year ago together with several disused agricultural barns and outbuildings.

Planning permission was granted to convert the buildings for residential use but this has not been used by the college.

In its application to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, the college says it has a growing demand for sports.

Headmaster Tyrone Howe said: “The college had a one-off opportunity to purchase some land adjacent to our site.

“The application is looking for permission to change the use of the grass paddock to recreational use so that sports teams have additional training space. The two small pitches this would create would provide more options for fixtures for the younger year groups.

This is particularly important as we start our move to being fully co-educational and welcome girls into year 7 from 2023.

“Additional sports facilities are required to provide a breadth of sports for both girls and boys.”

In November 2019, the college was granted planning permission to create playing fields on land off the A4155 at Shiplake Farm. This was despite opposition by residents and the parish council, who said the land should be preserved for its original purpose.

The college said that its existing sports pitches near the Thames were often flooded, meaning that matches had to be called off.

Mr Howe added: “These new pitches would be available for use almost immediately, should permission be given, which is a large benefit while we continue to work towards moving the playing fields by the riverside to their new location out of the floodplain nearby.”

The application says: “The college needs to find additional playing fields close to the school due to the demand for sports at the school and growing numbers.

“Apart from the goalposts and removable corner flags and nets, there would be no permanent structures and it would appear as a green field.

“The impact on the open countryside would be minimised by the fact that the pitches would not be visible from the road.

“The fields would be returnable to agriculture should the need arise, so there is no loss of agricultural land. The site has been in agricultural arable use since Victorian times at least.

“The ecological value would increase with its use for playing fields as the area would be managed grass but there would be an area that would be less used and less frequently cut.”

The application says there would not be additional traffic as drivers would park at the college, as they do now, and pupils, staff and spectators would walk to the pitches.

Shiplake Parish Council has supported the application, saying that the land has often been mentioned by residents as a better venue for the college’s expansion.

The site is not in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Oxfordshire County Council says it is in an area of archaeological interest but the college’s proposal would not result in below-ground impact.

A public consultation runs until next Friday (November 19) and the council is due to make a decision by December 21.

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