Anger at watchdog's support for sports field homes development

Campaigners fighting to protect a historic Hull sports field say they feel "hugely let down" after a sports watchdog signalled its support for development plans.

Barratt Homes Yorkshire wants to build up to 100 homes where the bowling greens used to be on the former Reckitt-owned playing field in Chamberlain Road.

The rest of the field would be used for two adult and two mini rugby pitches and changing rooms, with the developers also donating funds towards changing facilities at Pelican Park around a mile away.

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However, local people want to preserve the green space, which acted as a soakaway in the floods of 2007 and are concerned that if Barratt gets a foothold the rest of the land will eventually be swallowed up by housing.

They also are worried about the amount of extra traffic going onto an already busy road.

The privately-owned 17-acre sports field was once one of the top venues in the city for cricket and rugby, but for the past four years the gates have been padlocked and the grounds have fallen into disrepair.

Sport England, which acts as a consultee on planning applications that affect playing fields, said: "Our aim, as always, is to protect and improve community sport facilities so that more people have the opportunity to play sport.

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"Overall, the proposals will see currently unused playing field space at Chamberlain Road brought back into use with new changing facilities built.

"We are also negotiating with the developer to encourage them to invest in Pelican Park to provide new and improved facilities so that the whole community can use them for years to come."

Serji Singh, who runs Jackpot Wines in Chamberlain Road, has collected 1,000 names on a petition against the development. He said the council's planning department has been sent 500 individual letters against the proposals.

He said: "What disappoints me is that Sport England are the national guardians of green space. When there was another planning application in 2004 their officer said they had to replace the acreage back in the community – not a mile away.

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"Pelican Park is in a different geographical catchment area and children from Drypool and Stoneferry won't go and play there because it's too far. They are just building over our heritage.

He added: "There's an offer on the table, a plan B, of a syndicate which would buy the land and turn it into a sports complex with a full range of activities but they are ignoring it."

Mike Hookem, who will be standing for UKIP in next year's council elections, said: "The people I've spoken to don't want it. They want to leave it as it is. A matter of a few hundred yards away there's the Skeltons brownfield site which could be built on."

However Barratt Homes says there is support for the proposals to bring back into use a facility which has been closed to the public since 2006. They say their investment is worth 9m in terms of the construction alone, as well as 800,000 in new council tax payments and 800,000 from the coalition Government, also paid to Hull Council, as part of the "New Homes Bonus."

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Planning manager Paul Butler said: "We started discussing with Sport England about 18 months ago and we always agreed that it was the most pragmatic solution to get it back into sporting and community use."

He said the land would be transferred over the Hull FC, who would give Hull District Service Area a licence to use it. Development director Peter Morris said: "This is a unique opportunity to provide two enhanced public recreational facilities which will benefit the whole community."

'Positive boost for the area'

Hull FC said the plans were a "superb way" to redevelop land that would otherwise remain redundant.

Chief executive James Rule said: "It is such a positive boost for the area, both in terms of facilities and economy and we think it could have a real impact on the development of amateur rugby league in the area and subsequently it may even produce the next Richard Hornes and Kirk Yeamans."

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