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Banbury Academy's field sell-off bid faces hurdle
SPORT England could scupper Banbury Academy’s bid to sell part of its playing field for housing.
Councillors will tonight be asked to approve the plan for 50 homes, along with an all-weather pitch and sports hall extension.
But this will be conditional on Sport England removing its objection to the Ruskin Road school’s plan.
The former Banbury School said the sell-off was vital to pay for the new £750,000 facilities and the land was “not formally” used for sport.
It would go beside homes in the north east of the site, near the former Stanbridge Hall and Springfield Avenue.
But Sport England – the Government agency responsible for promoting sport – said it did not meet its criteria for making an exception.
It said it was “not fully convinced” by the school’s arguments that there would be enough playing pitches in Banbury.
Spokesman Amy Wright said: “Playing fields are a key resource for the whole community and safeguarding sports provision is vital if we are to get more people of all ages playing and enjoying sport. We are currently working with the applicant to resolve our objection and ensure the best result for all parties involved.”
A 164-signature petition and six residents’ letters opposing the plan – which includes 15 affordable homes – were submitted to Cherwell District Council.
Concerns included extra noise, light, traffic and the loss of the field.
Wykham Place resident Louise O’Neill, who said it could already take up to 15 minutes for Ruskin Road drivers to get out on to Springfield Avenue, said: “This is only going to be made considerably worse.”
Springfield Avenue resident Claire Hunt said it would “reduce the chance of this country being able to provide future sportsmen and women.”
But Banbury Town Council said the all-weather pitch would enhance the school’s sport offer.
District council housing chiefs said it would help meet “extremely high” demand for affordable housing.
The all-weather pitch, with lighting, would go on the site of a rugby pitch, which would move south-eastwards.
Changing rooms would be revamped and an extension built above the hall for a fitness suite. A 13ft climbing wall would be added outside.
Cherwell’s recreation and health department said, while it would usually object to the loss of school fields, the plan would maintain facilities.
Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for roads, said Springfield Avenue junction could cope.
Cherwell’s planning committee will debate outline permission tonight. Approval will be conditional on Sport England’s backing and would not imply approval of the 50 homes plan.
Principal Dr Fiona Hammans was not available for comment, but has previously said the school has a surplus of playing field land and the loss of Government money for new sport facilities meant it had to be sold.
County councillor Anne Purse said the authority must “do all in its power to ensure Oxfordshire schools retain their playing and sports facilities”.
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