A planning inspector has backed a decision to refuse permission for a new multi-use sports pitch. 

Plans to build a 3G pitch next to Park View School, Chester-le-Street, are now in doubt after the latest setback. The proposal also detailed plans to build new floodlights and install perimeter fencing.

Durham County Council’s planning committee refused the proposal in October 2023 because it would lead to traffic and safety disruption and cause noise and light issues.

However, the local authority was found to have behaved “unreasonably” and has been ordered to pay a portion of the applicant’s costs as part of the appeal.  

The Northern Echo: Where the pitch would be built, on land next to Park View SchoolWhere the pitch would be built, on land next to Park View School (Image: The Northern Echo)Hundreds of residents objected to the proposal.

“The estate around the school is made up of narrow roads, which run into single lanes when cars are parked outside houses,” said local county councillor Julie Scurfield. “Any traffic accessing the site will create chaos for people and bring misery to this tranquil neighbourhood.”

Lewis Pendleton, director of sport at Park View School, was told to look for a new location by residents. But following the ruling, he suggested the inspector’s decision could be contested at the High Court. 

The upgraded facilities would be used all year round by the community and local sports teams, Mr Pendleton said.

A report by planning inspector Geoff Underwood lauded the benefits of the scheme but sided with the residents’ concerns. 

He said: “The provision of the improved facilities would be a notable public benefit to school pupils and others in the community. The living conditions of nearby residents would not be harmed by any noise or light from the development.”

The inspector added that light and noise emitting from the development could be managed by planning conditions, which would impose specific limits on the site’s usage. 

However, the details around parking management were deemed “insufficient”. Inspector Underwood added: “The considerable harm that would arise to those living conditions would not be outweighed by the proposal’s benefits.”

The Northern Echo: Cllr Julie Scurfield, Labour leader cllr Carl Marshall and MP Kevan Jones with campaignersCllr Julie Scurfield, Labour leader cllr Carl Marshall and MP Kevan Jones with campaigners (Image: County Durham Labour)

Following the ruling, Mr Pendleton said there is  “clear evidence of the need for artificial pitches”. 

He added: “This now means our school will not have access to a 3G and our students will be forced out of Durham to train in Sunderland. We will review our options and continue to push forward with plans to enhance Chester-le-Street by developing one or two 3G pitches as we seek to revise our plans going forward. 

“We remain open to discussion with any councillor, or council official who may be willing to listen to our offer of capital investment into improving sporting outcomes for young people. We remain hopeful that members and officers can set political differences aside and deliver a cohesive community sports strategy for Chester-le-Street."

On the costs decision, inspector Underwood said: “Although not specified, the applicant has clearly incurred the expense of engaging a professional planning consultant in support of the appeal which in part was related to contesting the noise, light, and heritage reasons of the council’s decision. 

“I find that the council behaved unreasonably, and caused the applicant to incur unnecessary or wasted expense in the appeal process.” 

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A spokesperson for Durham County Council said: “We are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of residents and continue to progress with plans to transform and modernise County Durham’s sport and leisure offer.

“The application for this development was refused on the grounds that it would create additional noise and light disturbance and would impact highways infrastructure and heritage assets in the area.

“We are aware that the appeal has been dismissed by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate. We will work with the applicant to agree costs in line with the ruling.”