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Council told to consult community on artificial pitch plan for King’s Lynn playing field site

todayOctober 6, 2021 14

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Council chiefs have been told to consult local people before proceeding with plans to help fund a new artificial football pitch on a Lynn sports ground.

Officials are proposing to provide more than £260,000 towards the development of a 3G facility at the River Lane site in Gaywood.

But members of West Norfolk Council’s environment and community panel told a meeting yesterday that residents were unhappy that they had not been given a say on the idea thus far.

Lynn Ladies prepared for their new season at the River Lane playing fields, but officials claim a new 3G pitch would increase use of the area.
Lynn Ladies prepared for their new season at the River Lane playing fields, but officials claim a new 3G pitch would increase use of the area.

Sandra Collop and Alexandra Kemp both reported concerns had been raised with them.

And the committee voted seven to three to recommend a consultation process takes place before a formal planning application is submitted.

Officers said that, while the proposal to replace an existing grass pitch at the site had been developed following discussions with football bodies, community consultation would take place as part of the planning process.

But Green Party councillor Michael de Whalley said the authority needed to learn the lessons of the Parkway housing scheme, which is now being scaled back despite getting planning approval.

He said: “I don’t think this project, as it stands, can go forward to planning.

“We learned from Parkway that things have gone through planning and then been stopped because of the strength of local opposition.

“I would personally want to recommend an alternative location. I don’t think taking an existing playing field is appropriate.”

The panel’s vice-chairman, Carol Bower, said she was reassured that concerns raised by panel members would be considered within the planning process.

But Mr de Whalley argued that a planning consultation would not consider the broader merits of the proposal.

The River Lane site was given a Fields in Trust designation, protecting it as an open green space for public recreation, in 2017, after plans to redevelop it as part of a broader housing scheme for the Lynnsport and Marsh Lane area were dropped.

The meeting was told that the organisation supported the proposal, which is expected to cost around £730,000 in total. It is anticipated the scheme would mostly be funded by the Football Foundation.

A report presented to the panel said the need for an additional 3G pitch had been identified in a 2020 study of facilities in the area and pointed out that the existing pitch was close to full capacity.

It also argued that increased usage of the site could help to reduce growing levels of anti-social behaviour around the nearby Dutton pavilion.

Former environment portfolio holder Ian Devereux called it a “super proposal”.

He said: “Improving the facilities to attract folks into an old area that isn’t being well used is the right thing to do, especially when a national body is saying this is what you need to do.

“If I were a politician, I might even say it’s a good levelling up move.”

But independent councillor Jo Rust said the development risked excluding more people from using the site, rather than attracting them to it.

The scheme is expected to go before a Cabinet meeting next month, where a proposal to provide the council’s share of the cost through its community infrastructure levy is set to be examined.

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