Residents protest against playing field houses

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Angry residents opposed to new houses being built on the Manor Road KES sports pitches are leading a fierce campaign calling for the proposal to be dropped.

The group claim to be in close contact with 150-200 local residents about the issue, many of whom have requested posters and banners to show their opposition to the housing project.

The school wants to sell a small strip of land bordering Manor Road for the construction of around six houses.

According to KES, the sale of the land will go towards funding a million pound project to refurbish the sports facilities on Manor Road, benefitting the School and the wider community.

The school say the land being sold is overgrown, and not suitable for sports activities, but some residents believe the space should remain as it is and KES are simply being greedy.

Such a development would also inevitably mean that the view of the playing fields would be blocked for some residents.

It is not the first proposal to come forward seeking to redevelop the area, back in 2011 an application to build 60 extra care apartments on the site was rejected by planners.

David Neale, who is co-ordinating local opposition to the plan, said: “Bennet Carr, Headmaster of King Edward VI school, is quoted as saying that the development of the Sports Field in Manor Road can only be achieved by selling off part of that sports field.

“This is, indeed, a travesty, with the loss of green space and visual amenity to the town, plus the contravention of building in the curtilage of a Grade II listed building.

“The idea that Stratford District Council’s Policy and Core Strategy could be cast aside as if it were of no consequence is appalling.

“Having gone through this process only a few years ago, when the School’s last application was turned down at planning appeal and, specifically, when Bennet Carr had announced that the School would not try again, the considerable opposition to this earlier proposition seems to have taught him nothing.

“It is, of course, the Trustees and Governors of this wealthy school who should be held to account; Mr Carr is but a mouthpiece.

“Congratulations are due to KES over the last twenty years in raising funds to build the Fox Hall, the Science Block (all now debt free) and the Library – which received £1.7m in grants.  Plus the school’s Town Trust Historical Grant of £640,000 per annum (which no other school in Stratford is entitled to); they are indeed very fortunate.

“Given this heritage asset of high environmental value to the town, any prospective purchaser is in for a time consuming, and expensive, hard ride.”

Local resident Eileen Kelly, said: “I’m just angry at the constant drip, drip, drip effect of KES submitting proposals for the beautiful field. They receive annually, a huge amount of money from the town trust. They don’t need the money, it’s clear they want to dispose of the field at any cost without due consideration for the people who have lived here much longer than me.”

Mike Slater, 80, who has lived on Manor Road since 1978, said: “There have been five or six attempts to build on the field and I think once they get permission to build on a little bit, I can see them coming back again and again and we will lose this fantastic green space.

“For me this is just the thin and of the wedge. If KES need the money, they should seek to get it another way, they already receive a grant from the Town Trust.”

Lin Armstrong, of Manor Road, commented: “They are proposing building six detached houses on an area that has quite a number of protected trees, even if they manage to stay standing, the work will damage the roots and eventually they will grow weak and have to come down. Three of the protected trees, which are memorials to fallen soldiers, are not actually on the KES land but their roots would of course be damaged because they are so close by.

“I think we need to stand up and protect green open spaces in Stratford, there’s not an awful lot of them around. KES say that area is unsuitable for sports, but when we moved in here a couple of years ago my boys used to play on that land, it’s only neglected land now because KES have left it to become weeds.

“I support KES wanting to modernise the sports facilities, but they should fundraise to pay for it, not sell this land, this is just a quick way to make a million pounds.

“They will always need money for something, if they get permission for this they’ll come back with plans to build on the other side, every time they need a million pounds.

“One of the reasons I moved here was because of the view, I know you don’t have a right to a view, but it’s a lovely area to look out over. I also have concerns that having the houses there will cause parking issues.”

Another Manor Road resident added: “Some of the residents have lived her for more than 40 years and this is valuable green space. There have been at least five failed attempts to build on these fields and this is the next one that residents are opposing. We are all very organised, we have a database of 150 residents who live on all the roads surrounding the fields and we’re determined to keep the place green and the trees protected.

“KES might say that they need to sell this land to fund the sports improvements, but I would say that is their problem, they need to find another way of getting the money without destroying this green space.”

Responding to the criticism from local residents a spokesperson for KES, said: “Since first obtaining planning permission for an all-weather pitch in 2008, the School has explored a wide range of potential funding streams, including a bid to Sport England. Regrettably, all such efforts have been unsuccessful.

“The offer of land for sale represents the first stage of plans that were outlined to neighbours at a consultation in early 2018. Revenue from the sale of this very small area of unused land – 0.39 acres representing a little over 2% of the total area of the Manor Road Sports Ground – will enable us to create a modern sporting hub in Stratford-upon-Avon with the benefits shared equally between the School and the wider community.

“The proposed development, which is significantly smaller than historic plans, follows the existing housing line and is an enabling act to deliver the new facilities.

“These will include a full-size floodlit artificial hockey pitch (convertible to 12 tennis courts), the modernisation of the 50 year-old listed pavilion and the provision of off-road parking for 60 cars and school coaches. Support for these facilities has been expressed by Sport England and Hockey England as well as by local sports clubs and junior schools, demonstrating that it will provide significant benefits to the town.”