Harpenden school shoots to victory with 3G pitch scheme

Roundwood Park school

Roundwood Park school - Credit: Archant

Campaigners fighting for an artificial sports pitch to be installed at a Harpenden secondary school have finally scored the winning goal.

The scheme for a 3G pitch and floodlighting at Roundwood Park School, which would be used by students and Harpenden Colts, was given the go ahead by a St Albans planning committee on Monday night. (16)

And subject to agreement from the FA, from which most of the funding would come, work could start on laying the new pitch as early as this autumn.

There are a number of specialist companies which are approved to lay such pitches and they can install them in as little as four months.

An application for the pitch and floodlighting was turned down last June because of concerns about the hours of opening and the impact on the surrounding area. The school subsequently reapplied, bringing forward the finish time from 10pm to 9.30pm from Mondays to Fridays.

This time the planning north committee voted by six to one to back the scheme which will enable both the school and the 800-strong Colts to play locally throughout the winter months rather than having to seek out artificial pitches elsewhere.

Hundreds of supporters of the scheme had signed petitions in favour of it but there was still a strong lobby in opposition..

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One of the objectors, Matthew Bates, told the committee that the half hour reduction in opening times amounted to less than three per cent.

He maintained that if the facility was operational today, there was a high probability that the noise levels would be deemed excessive and that other artificial pitches in the area were away from residential properties with better access.

But Wheathampstead councillor and portfolio holder for sports, Cllr Annie Brewster, confirmed that in other parts of the district where such pitches had been installed, including her own village, there had been few if any complaints once they were up and running. She said the Wheathampstead pitch ‘had changed lives and we are very proud of it’.

Roundwood Park headteacher, Alan Henshall, said both the school and the Colts regularly had to cancel fixtures and training because of waterlogged pitches.

He stressed that the school had 225 parking spaces available on the site and there would be 20-minute gaps in the three-hour long Colts’ sessions which would facilitate dropping off and picking up.

Mr Henshall said: “The half hour has been portrayed as a trivial concession but it means that the facility will not be available until 10pm and all activity will be under the control of the Colts and the school.”

To applause from a packed council chamber, he added: “This is your opportunity, this is our time, this is their future.”

After the meeting, deputy Roundwood head Tony Smith, in whose name the application was submitted, said: “We are delighted that the planning application was approved and would like to thank everyone who took time to write in, sign the petition and go along to the meeting.”