School expansion would sound the ‘death knell for 2,000 year old view of York’
Campaigners against a school’s plans to create new sports pitches in green belt land say it would end a view of York that has lasted centuries.
St Peter’s School – founded in 672 AD – has applied for permission to create a floodlit hockey pitch, tennis/netball courts and cricket nets, plus car parking and coach drop-off areas near Westminster Road.
Neighbour Peter Hanson said it would sound the “death knell” for land which had provided “open, unpolluted views of York” for nearly 2,000 years.
The area had been proposed as green belt land in City of York Council’s draft Local Plan, but government planning inspectors have recently recommended the council relax the boundary and remove the land from the extent of the green belt.
This makes St Peter’s bid for planning permission more likely to be successful, say campaigners who are opposed to the new sports pitches.
Mr Hanson told senior councillors on the executive committee: “We all know that there are very powerful interests lobbying for development to be allowed on the green fields of St Peter’s School.
“Until the highly unusual and awkwardly worded last minute note from the Local Plan inspector, this land was safely and rightfully protected by City of York Council’s sound Local Plan.”
Resident Andrew Dickisnon called the change “suspicious”.
“The same rules should apply to St Peter’s as apply to everybody else,” he added.
The council’s corporate director of economy and place Neil Ferris hit back at suggestions of a “behind closed doors affair”.
He said the inspectors had asked the council to examine boundaries around several schools and that they had considered a flood defence bund on the land to be a more appropriate boundary at St Peter’s.
Challenging the inspectors’ suggestion would cause further delay to the city’s long awaited Local Plan, he added.
Head of strategic planning policy Alison Cooke said there would still be “significant constraints” on developing the land, which is in a flood zone and next to a conservation area
“In my professional opinion I think that the bund is a good site for the boundary,” she added.
A spokesperson for St Peter’s School said: “The planning inspectors, who are examining the City of York Local Plan, have directed the council to modify their proposed greenbelt boundaries around numerous sites which include several schools and education establishments including Askham Bryan College, Burton Green Primary School, Lord Deramore Primary School, St Peter’s School, York College, and the University of York.
“This follows a thorough examination of all views about future development in York, through the Local Plan preparation process.”
The school’s plans have attracted significant attention, with local councillors, York Central MP Rachael Maskell, Sports England and the Environment Agency objecting.
On the council’s planning portal, there are now more than 100 comments both for and against the proposal.
The council’s latest Local Plan – a blueprint which determines how the city will develop in the coming years – was approved by the executive committee on Thursday.
The amendments to the plan, including at St Peter’s, will now go out to public consultation.