Plans to turn agricultural land in Old Leake into a school playing field have this afternoon (Tuesday) been rejected by Boston Borough Council.
The application to convert a 5.4 acre field between School Lane and Southfield Lane for use by Giles Academy pupils was turned down. Six councillors voted in favour of the rejection with one councillor voting against and one abstaining from the vote.
Part of the reason for refusing planning permission was that it would contradict certain planning policies and would ‘create a prominent, alien and visual intrusion to the countryside’.
Development control manager Paul Edwards said: “There’s no quantative evidence from the school that they need that playing field. On balance we don’t think officers can support it.”
Other concerns were also raised by residents and the parish council that not enough consultation and detail had gone into the application by Giles Academy, that there were other amenities offered such as the village community centre, and also concerns regarding noise, disruption for nearby homes as well as the safety of pupils crossing the road to access the field.
A 145-signature petition was handed into the council by the Old Leake Action Group, who were opposed to the development, while a parish council representative said that authority had also voted to oppose it.
Barrie Pierpoint, speaking on behalf of the action group, said: “The residents of Old Leake acknowledge the success of Giles Academy, their achievements and successes over the years. “However, those living nearby have taken the cost - increased parking, increase use of the roads by double decker buses, HGVs and tractors”.
They questioned the safety of the width of the road and footpath which would be used to access the field.
Mr Pierpoint added: “What Giles Academy is proposing will create more problems for even more residents.”
Concerns were also raised about use of the field at night (including whether there was a possibility of the use of intoxicating substances), increased car parking, and what would happen if pupils needed the toilet while using the field and how they would be safely supervised.
“They have failed to understand the impact on residents lives and failed to fulfil promises,” added Mr Pierpoint.
Speaking on behalf of the school were head boy and head girl Cael Atkin-Palmer and Heidi Green, who said they were proud to be part of Giles.
They pointed to factors including the school’s high safety record, its food and safety awards and its aim to encourage healthy lifestyles.
Cael said: “We suggest that there has not been complete understanding of this matter. Prominent means ‘protuberant, Immediately noticeable or conspicuous’ and alien means “unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful”. We strongly disagree that a grass field in rural Lincolnshire fits either of these two descriptions. It is neither noticeable, nor uncommon, let alone ‘prominent or alien’.”
“We would like to emphasise that we want this field to use as a field for our PE and games curriculum. As such we have no plans to build on the land.”
They said Lincolnshire County Council were often advising them that more facilities should be available.
Heidi said: “We also believe this is an opportunity to reverse some of the national loss of school playing fields.“
The use of the parish council’s facilities was disputed, as the pupils said there were busier roads between the school and the community centre, and it would take longer to reach. However, Old Leake residents said the facilities were within a good distance, had CCTV and changing and toilet facilities.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Pierpoint and the action group said they felt they had won the battle but not the war and reiterated the lack of consultation.
“It’s arrogance, and the school has an arrogant attitude,” said Mr Pierpoint.
Giles Academy deputy head teacher Ian Widdows said they were ‘disappointed’ by the decision and added there had not been as much consultation as the school would have liked because the owner of the field had not wanted news of the sale until plans were finalised.
He said said the school would be taking away what was said and would enter into further consultation with residents and detail to resubmit their application.
Following the vote senior officer Steve Lumb said the door was ‘not necessarily closed’ on the development if the Giles Academy could come back with a more detailed submission.