Playing fields are precious to us all

RE: John McCormick’s piece in the Advertiser (November 23) regarding plans for rugby development in Herringthorpe.

Thank you to those who came along to last week’s drop-in meeting arranged by the Herringthorpe Playing Fields Community Group. Following that meeting, I’d like to share some key facts. Firstly, the planning inspector found in favour of an application for ‘floodlights’ alone. He did not find in favour of the rugby club’s development scheme, nor did he find in favour of leasing seven acres of prime open public space for the next 22 years for a peppercorn rent of £1 a year. That simply isn’t within his gift.

Nor did he find in favour of fencing off the land. Although the fence doesn’t require planning permission, it certainly needs council permission.

The club’s director asserts that it operates a policy of non-discrimination, yet any fenced and gated development is equally indiscriminate in terms of excluding all those who are unable or not inclined to participate in his chosen pastime. Rugby is a fine game with a rich heritage, as is football, cricket and hockey, etc, but why privilege the activities of one above another.

Similarly, all those who choose alternative activities, eg dog walking, running, kite-flying, passing time with friends on a summer’s day, families simply spending time playing with their children, have an equal right to spend their time doing whatever, wherever they choose, on what are after all Herringthorpe playing fields, open to all.

The proposed development has been presented by an amateur club, but it’s no secret that the venture is equally for the benefit of the affiliated Rotherham Titans who are unable to access such funding in their own right. The proposed Herringthorpe lease provides the Titans with an expansion opportunity with the right to unlimited access to a site over three times the size of their current ground and it aims to create an enormous central hub for Rotherham rugby. A significant section of the local community testify that this will truly have an increasingly dramatic effect on their already compromised quality of life. It seems that their views have hitherto not been considered.

They already endure problems from traffic, excessive noise, urination in hedges, disruption and parking. This will only increase. The impact of the proposed intensification of training and matches each evening will be unbearable for those who live in what is already a very busy, densely populated area. No one denies the aspirations of the club, but please open your minds to some of the very real issues of residents. It isn’t ‘nimbyism’, it’s a fundamental question of having the right development, the right size, in the right place with the right facilities.

I am now informed that the consultation exercise is not scheduled to commence until next January! This will be a final opportunity to express your views and I hope that councillors will appreciate their sincerity and validity. As a community we need to be sure that we wish to endorse strategies which, however seemingly well intentioned, appear to advocate a single interest development which by definition negates the right of those not associated with rugby to maintain their unrestricted access to all parts of the playing fields. Herringthorpe playing fields are a precious legacy and resource for everyone.

J Morgan, on behalf of the Herringthorpe Playing Fields Community Group