Gosforth eFocus 43 - Planning permissions and playing fields

October 25, 2015 2:10 PM

On Friday, the Planning Committee of Newcastle City Council will decide upon two planning applications which are hugely important for the future of public open space in Parklands Ward

These are the Red House Farm FC application 2014/1466/01/DET and the Gosforth Sports Association (which currently consists of Newcastle City Cricket Club and Gosforth Rugby Football Club) application 2015/1156/01/DET

The agenda and all supporting papers for both of these applications can be found at http://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=858&MId=5874&Ver=4

Below are the latest comments that Parklands Councillors have submitted for the two applications - we've striven to be even handed in our approach, bearing in mind that based on previous hearings by the Committee, complete rejections against Officers' recommendations are highly unlikely. You might also like to note that we are pushing for a "Measured mile" around these fields to encourage running and walking.

It's one of the principles of planning law that anyone can apply for anything. So it's worth noting that both of these proposals have some sort of "following wind" from Council officials. This is because the fields are a direct annual maintenance cost to the City (along with other pitches elsewhere) which they'd like to avoid, and need capital investment for which they don't have the money, but which bodies like Sport England do. The Government is forcing Councils to do less - this is a direct consequence. Our view is that this is a trend driven by a political party not represented in Newcastle, but which has control in London. As we can't stop it, the best that can be done locally is to ameliorate the worst effects.

And if these planning applications are approved, the battles are not over. The proposals will still need landlord's consent/changes of tenure, which are under the control of Newcastle City Council rather than quasi-legal planning regulations.

Red House Farm FC

On behalf of the Councillors for Parklands Ward - Councillors Allen, Down and Ashby - I reconfirm the objections previously lodged by us in respect of this application, and endorse the comments on this application made by Cllrs Faulkner and Hindmarsh. We would make the following additional comments :

1. We have no objection in principle to organised football at this site, and indeed are prepared to be supportive at ward level of any potential application for support, but are greatly concerned about restrictions on access for informal sports and recreations - especially the implications for local people of fences, signalling that they are no longer welcome on these fields.

2. We are prepared to endorse the suggestion made during the previous planning committee of an artificial surface, with floodlights and fences, oriented north-south and to the north of the clubhouse. This would be the bulk of any capital investment on playing pitches (for which funding is not yet in place) and it is also recognised that this would require a change in tenure in order to enable it (but see point 4).

3. We do not think the club has made, in several meetings with us, in public meetings we have attended, and in its written literature, any case for a full size (adult) grass pitch to be fenced off and floodlit, or any other restrictions on public access on any other part of the fields.

4. Despite point 2, we are concerned at the financial viability at a year-to-year revenue level of any expansion of current facilities, as evidenced by the current annual accounts and lack of business case made available by the club. In the event of non-viability at some point in the future, conversion of natural to artificial development will already have had a precedent set. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development including fencing off grassed areas, we urge that it should be a planning condition that a financial viability study and business plan should be an additional requirement before implementation commences.

5. We are concerned that we seem already to have a semi-permanent "neighbour dispute" between the club and local people, evidenced by both sides calling the police. Any development is likely to exacerbate this, and we fear for the potential for intimidation, violence, property damage or breach of the peace.

6. Much has been made of "dog dirt" - its dangers, non-clearance etc - and accusations have flowed about control of dogs. We would opine that some of this may be fox dirt, and although it may be an issue, it's has been overplayed to justify major, permanent change to the character of these fields. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge it to include a condition whereby the club makes available and empties appropriate facilities for dog walkers to deposit "dog dirt".

7. We have been unable to satisfy ourselves that the non-clubhouse facilities are not used for commercial purposes, especially through "training" sessions. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge that no pitches should be sublet to any commercial organisation. (This would allow local people to hire the artificial surface from the club for birthday parties etc but no other organisation to run a business using it)

8. Despite the welcome marking and more efficient use of car parking, we have not been convinced that the off site impact of parking during tournaments has been eliminated. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge that it be a requirement to notify the City Council, Ward councillors and the police 28 days in advance of any tournament involving more than 4 teams.

9. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we believe that the proposed permitted times for floodlights - up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week - is hugely excessive, and should be restricted to a total of 25 hours over 5 days a week excluding Sundays, and ending at 830pm, (this latter both because this is supposed to be a junior football club and to align with another planning application for training lights from Gosforth Sports Association )

10. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge that no removal of trees be permitted without at least 28 days' notice in writing to ward councillors in addition to any usual notification requirements.

Gosforth Sports Association

On behalf of the Councillors for Parklands Ward - Councillors Allen, Down and Ashby - I submit the following comments for the Committee's consideration, noting that GSA has engaged with us from an early date and responded to some of our concerns before it made an application:

1. We have no objection in principle to organised cricket and rugby football at this site, and indeed are prepared to be supportive at ward level of any potential application for support. We would be greatly concerned about restrictions on access for informal sports and recreations - especially the implications for local people of fences, signalling that they are no longer welcome on these fields - but no such suggestion has been made to us.

2. We are prepared to endorse the request for floodlights for limited training purposes and to facilitate capital investment in further facilities (subject to a change in tenure to be approved by Newcastle City Council).

3. In the interests of equity between this and the other application being considered by the Committee, were it minded to give consent to any kind of development, it should be a planning condition that a financial viability study and business plan should be an additional requirement before implementation commences.

4. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge it to include a condition whereby the club makes available and empties appropriate facilities for dog walkers to deposit "dog dirt". (Ward Committee members have discussed this with club officials, who are already carrying this out informally)

5. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge that no pitches should be permitted to be sublet to any commercial organisation.

6. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge that it be a requirement to notify the City Council, Ward councillors and the police 28 days in advance of any tournament involving more than 4 teams. (Noting the possibility of both cricket and rugby being played simultaneously)

7. Were the Committee minded to give consent to any kind of development, we urge that no removal of trees be permitted without at least 28 days' notice in writing to ward councillors in addition to any usual notification requirements.

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