St Albans school’s sports complex scuppered due to residents’ concerns

A SCHOOL’S proposal for a new sports development has been rejected by the district council.

Nicholas Breakspear Catholic school in partnership with St Albans City Youth FC had hoped to build a multi-use games area (MUGA) along with a new sports block housing changing rooms, a teaching area and an office.

But it was refused by councillors on the Plans South committee on Monday night despite planning officers recommending granting the application, which had been revised after it was previously withdrawn because of public opposition.

The proposed evening and weekend use of the facility caused most concern among local residents because they felt it would cause unacceptable increases in traffic and parking demand, as well as light pollution from the floodlighting and noise from matches.

Planning portfolio holder Chris Brazier cited the residents’ concerns at the meeting and put forward a proposal to refuse planning permission which was supported by the majority of councillors on the committee.

Cllr Brazier said afterwards: “I do support the school having a MUGA as I think it’s beneficial to the school and I have nothing against it. However, it can’t go ahead at any cost. Obviously if you move in across from a school you do expect some level of disruption, but not all weekend and late into the evening until 10pm.”

But the application, which attracted 112 letters of objection and 13 letters of support, received full backing from Sport England which said the MUGA was a much needed facility for a variety of groups and would resolve the difficulties the school had in meeting the national curriculum in PE and playing host to sports fixtures due to problems with the drainage of the current playing field.

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Yesterday the school and their partners in the venture said they were “extremely disappointed” with the decision which had come as a shock given the plans were recommended for approval.

In a joint statement, headteacher Phil Jakszta and Mervyn Morgan, the chair of trustees at the youth football club, said: “Nicholas Breakspear School and the club have put a tremendous amount of work into this project over the past two years ensuring that any impact on the local residents would be minimal.”

The statement said claims that the project was commercial was “total falsehood” and stressed that St Albans City Youth was a non-profit making charity which was run by more than 100 volunteers who gave up time to train boys, girls and disabled groups.

They also said that the club had been using the site at weekends for matches and training for the past two seasons without complaint, until a week before the meeting. The statement added: “All professional bodies advising the planning committee were clear that the traffic, noise and floodlighting were within the acceptable parameters for such a project.”