Improved sports facilities require removal of 1.5 acres of grass
Wimbledon College. Picture: Google Streetview
December 15, 2021
Plans to install an artificial pitch at a Wimbledon school have been described as “desecrating” the environment by a local councillor as families fumed.
Wimbledon College in Edge Hill has been given the green light for a new pitch by Merton Council.
But some locals were not happy with the previous grass pitch being replaced.
Paul Connor’s house backs on to the college. He said the application “makes a mockery of the term conservation area”.
He added, “It proposed a loss of approximately 6,000 square metres of green space and its replacement with steel, concrete and plastic.”
A fellow resident objecting at the meeting raised concerns with the floodlighting proposed as part of the plans.
The plans include a new five metre fence and six retractable floodlights.
Adrian Laing, headteacher at the comprehensive boys’ school, said the aim of the new pitch will improve sports facilities for pupils.
He added that the pitch will be available to hire between 6-9pm on weekdays, 9am-6pm on Saturdays and 9am-1pm on Sundays.
Mr Laing said: “Our drainage system is a very thorough system which will improve what is really poor drainage at the moment.
“The pitch gets waterlogged and becomes unusable in the winter time, one of the reasons we are looking at the 3G pitch.”
Councillor Daniel Holden said that up to 9pm was too late for the pitch to be used and was worried that renting out the pitch would increase traffic and noise to the area.
And Cllr David Dean said accused the school of wanting the new pitch so it can rent it out.
He said, “If they have been able to play for it for 128 years without any complaints to lose 1.5 acres of grass to put in a dead plastic surface and flood lights to play up until 9pm.
“This is about commercialising their pitch, to desecrate 1.5 acres of green space.
“I don’t think the school should be seen as a commercial operation while desecrating 1.5 acres of green space.
“This is pure greed of people that don’t know anything about running a commercial operation, they really need to go back to teaching pupils and allowing the environment to survive in this borough.”
But Cllr Stephen Alambritis hit back defending the school.
He said, “I am shocked at some of the statements from Cllr Dean and shocking statements when they have the headteacher present who wants to improve the school experience for their children.
“There is nothing untoward or anti-environmental about these pitches. We need to vote for this application to show our support for sports, schools and headteachers.”
The application was approved by the council’s planning committee with six votes to two.
Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter