A CONTROVERSIAL plan by a private school to build playing fields on protected land has been rejected today (Wednesday, January 16).

Yarm School wanted to build 11 playing fields and a sports pavilion on the northern bank of the River Tees, at Egglescliffe, on Tees Heritage Park land.

Planning officers recommended approval but there was an unanimous vote against at Stockton Borough Council planning committee.

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The proposals had included a new footbridge over the Tees, 1.5km of new public footpaths and a car park.

A total of 23 people spoke from the floor in a meeting at Stockton Baptist Tabernacle Church attended by about 150 people.

Of those only one spoke in favour of the scheme, most pointing out the value of a Heritage Park land to the future development and sustainability of Stockton.

Doug Nicholson, chairman of the Friends of Tees Heritage Park, said: “This is a unique environment, rural and industrial heritage. It’s not a static museum more of a national mini-park.”

However, Christopher Harrison, of NLP, the company submitting the plans on behalf of Yarm School pointed out amid some heckling, that only 3.5 per cent of households had objected and the land amounted to just two per cent of the Heritage Park. New hedgerows would be planted, he added.

Councillor Steven Walmsley won applause when he said: “This is a question of the school superceding the needs of the town.”

The councillors agreed to reject the proposal on the grounds that it was green wedge land a flood plain.

Yarm School now has the option to appeal. The school is also hoping to sell off its existing playing fields in Green Lane to allow developers to build up to 735 new homes.