A community campaign to protect residents has helped overhaul plans for a new artificial sports pitch on their doorsteps. 

Plans to build a 3G pitch next to Park View School, Chester-le-Street, were unanimously refused by councillors on Durham County Council’s planning committee. 

Hundreds of residents objected to the plans, after warning of the adverse impact the proposed site would have on the area. They urged the applicant to look for a new location. 

The proposal also detailed a desire to build new floodlights and to install perimeter fencing, but residents’ concerns were favoured over the bid to improve sporting facilities. 

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The Northern Echo: Where the proposed 3G pitch would have been built, replacing the existing playing fieldsWhere the proposed 3G pitch would have been built, replacing the existing playing fields (Image: The Northern Echo)Applicant Lewis Pendleton of Park View School and Chester-le-Street United Football Club, said the pitch could be used all-year-round and would alleviate the pressure on the school’s tight curriculum. 

“It is greatly disappointing for both our pupils and the local community groups that from October to March we cannot use much of the field for any sports or general recreation,” he added. 

The meeting heard how the proposal was linked to the local authority’s playing pitch strategy, which outlines the need for 10 artificial grass pitches across County Durham. Around 90 letters of support backed the scheme. 

Although not included in a planning report by the local authority, the pitch would have also been used by and benefited Chester-le-Street United, to provide more space for the hundreds of footballers on its books. 

But residents warned that their neighbourhood is not big enough to cope with the increased demand in the area. Placards with ‘NO’ printed on them were held up throughout the meeting. 

The Northern Echo: Cllrs Scurfield, Labour leader Carl Marshall and MP Kevan Jones with campaignersCllrs Scurfield, Labour leader Carl Marshall and MP Kevan Jones with campaigners (Image: The Northern Echo)

Cllr Tracie Smith, of Chester-le-Street North, said the current three schools, a nursery and other amenities is enough, and that new sports facilities would exacerbate congestion. She added: “Why oh why are we allowing more traffic into this small area? It’s more classrooms Chester-le-Street needs, not football pitches.”

Cllr Julie Scurfield, of Chester-le-Street East, also backed the campaign. She said: “Residents are not against young people playing football. This proposal will fundamentally change the nature of this peaceful neighbourhood. Residents are the experts, we need to listen to them.”

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Councillors were told “robust processes” were in place to tackle parking issues and a booking system would be used by visitors to the site, but the assurances failed to convince members. 

Following a site visit, cllr Patricia Jopling said: “The first thing I thought was, ‘my god I don’t want to live here’. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to affect people’s wellbeing. It’s obvious there’s going to be parking issues and we have a duty of care to our residents.”

The application was unanimously refused, though members were warned the local authority may have difficulty defending their concerns over the highways issues at an appeal.