Building housing on Pitches site would be a ‘travesty’

Building housing on Pitches site would be a ‘travesty’

By Gareth Dennison | 15/11/2021

Building housing on Pitches site would be a ‘travesty’

 

ENOUGH housing space exists elsewhere in Rotherham to spare the Pitches being developed with 116 properties, RMBC told a public inquiry.

And the former sports club at Broom could be returned to a playing condition within weeks, the planning inspector heard this week.

Rotherham Council rejected Newett Homes’ plans in March for housing on the land, which is designated as urban greenspace in RMBC’s Local Plan.

Freddie Humphreys, representing the council at the virtual session, said: “In simple terms, the application is not needed to meet the council’s identified housing needs.

“The site is not currently in great condition. The reason for this is that the owners have not maintained it.

“A simple clearance of the site would allow it to be used for sport and recreation. Once that was achieved, it could be incrementally improved over time.”

Mr Humphreys drew a parallel with the rejection of housing for the land in 1997, when it was  decided that no special circumstances had  been demonstrated for the loss of urban           greenspace. “There is no reason to now alter that history,” he added.

The council also has concerns about the deliverability of the £900,000 investment pledged in a Section 106 deal offer by Newett.

Richard Sagar, representing the firm, noted that there were no public rights of way on this privately-owned site.

There was some disagreement over when the land was last used for football, but he said tennis had not been played there since 1986 and cricket since 2002.

Mr Sagar said the state of this provision had diminished over many years, despite “valiant” attempts to keep it operational.

He said there was “no reasonable possibility” of sporting activities resuming there, so the land would continue to be vacant and deteriorating.

And any visual amenity provided by the land was limited to those homes backing onto the site, he added.

Whiston Wildcats chairman James Pink said the football club was asked to leave the Pitches in June 2013 — because having matches played there did not help the owners’ aim of getting permission for housing.

The club’s membership dropped from 188 members to 113 after it left, Mr Pink said, adding that the Wildcats would be prepared to return to the Pitches.

He said: “I feel that the loss of another green space, perfectly capable of being commissioned as a playing surface, is just another loss to our future health and happiness.”

Mr Pink said he recalled when the grass had been allowed to grow to about 3.5ft but the club was able to mow it and have five pitches ready within six weeks.

Former Wickersley Road resident Tom Humphries, now a doctor in Australia, said he remembered the land being turned into “our Twickenham, Wembley or even Lords” for sports when he was a youngster.

“It would be a travesty for the Pitches fields to be lost,” he added, saying the current state of the land was due to longstanding neglect.

“Maintaining access to sporting groups is of paramount importance as Rotherham remains in the grips of an obesity crisis.”

Cllr Wendy Cooksey, RMBC ward member for Rotherham East, raised concerns about the extra vehicles and linked increase in air pollution.

She said: “In Rotherham, it’s estimated that poor air quality directly contributes to over 100 deaths a year. An increase in traffic around the Pitches will exacerbate what’s already a problem for local   people.”

The inquiry continues.

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