Fears raised for future of 'vital' Knaresborough playing field

St John's CE Primary. Picture: Google Maps
St John's CE Primary. Picture: Google Maps
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Concern has been raised for the future of a ‘vital’ school playing field in Knaresborough after it emerged the site has been considered for ‘residential’ development.

Residents and councillors were outraged to find that St John’s CE Primary School playing field had been put forward in the Harrogate local plan as a site for housing.

Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) is in the process of consulting over a local plan for the whole district, which will designate suitable areas for a number of land uses.

The green space north of Stockwell Lane, which is co-owned by North Yorkshire County Council and HBC has been submitted in the consultation as potential space for development.

Headteacher at St John’s Primary, Alex Hope, said: “We do a lot of afterschool activities there, we have football club on there in the better weather, we have athletics and rugby but we also do geography and science lessons on there, so as a school resource we use it a lot and we want to use it more and more.

“That’s why it is so vital that its stays as it is, it’s our only grass area. It’s a vital resource to the school, if that goes it limits so much of what we can do.”

Both councils have claimed that they did not submit the land for consideration in the consultation, and that the land was put forward by a ‘private individual’.

HBC has ruled the land as unsuitable for development, primarily on access issues but noted that the site would be suitable for residential development if those issues were resolved and ‘the loss of sports provision replaced or robustly justified’.

The comments have prompted Knaresborough Town Councillor, James Monaghan (Lib), to call for re-assurances that the site will not be developed in future.

Coun Monaghan, said: “Everyone knows, and research shows, that playing pitches are vitally important for school children.

“I would like to see HBC come forward and say this should not be developed and will not be considered in future.

“Myself and my colleagues will do all we can to fight against the loss of school playing fields in Knaresborough and any attempt to build on St John’s schools playing fields. ”

Councillor Rebecca Burnett, HBC Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, said the council values sports facilities.

She said: “The site on Stockwell Lane in Knaresborough, which is used as playing fields by St John’s Primary School, has been deemed as being currently unsuitable for development, due its importance as a location for community sports and recreation, and in terms of access to the location.

“The council values school sports facilities and whilst this site has been included within the Strategic Housing & Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA), it has not sought to include it within the draft Local Plan as a location for potential development.

“The site was put forward by an individual, not by either landowner.

NYCC have also claimed that they are not interested in promoting the site for development, and explained that doing so would be a more complicated process.

John Lee Strategic Planning Officer at NYCC said: “Any individual can put a site forward for consideration, it doesn’t have to be in their ownership, but this site has been put forward by a private individual.

“It is not something we are looking at promoting for development and if it was being looked at for development we would have to obtain permission from the Secretary of State for education because it is used by the school - it is designated as a school playing field.”