The Planning Inspector has granted consent to the creation of a MUGA court on Eltham Common, allowing Christ Church school to expand its buildings into their current play area. His full report has been published on the Planning Portal decisions page.
This will allow the school to increase its cramped teaching accommodation and play area. Currently their accommodation is 664 square meters short of the Department for Education and Science guidelines and their play area is 1860 square metres below. It will also provide a more integrated school, removing the need for children to traverse steep outside steps in all weather conditions to get to the church hall for lunches, PE and games.
At the 2 day public enquiry in February the Inspector heard a large number of submissions of all opinions which he summarises in the decision report. He points out that the the proposed works will occupy only1.53% of the total area of the common and 0.15% of the Oxleas woodlands. He also concludes that there is no evidence that the Oxleas Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) will be adversely impacted, and points out that new habitat areas will be created as part of the proposed work:
As part of the application it is proposed to develop new habitat areas of 55 sq.m. and 48 sq.m. These areas will be seeded with shade tolerant wildflower mixes requiring minimal management once established. New planting will be provided along the boundaries of the play areas on the woodland and in the grassland. Other measures will include selective thinning of dense scrub, coppicing of the woodland edge, creation of dead wood habitat piles. The habitat creation and enhancement measures will create a diverse woodland habitat and will enhance the site for a range of bird species. The proposals will enhance the site for a number of bat species by the planting of night scented plants which will attract moths and other flying insects which would provide a food resource for bats; a bat survey did not reveal the presence of any bats on the site.
So the Inspector felt that there would be a net small ecological benefit to the development when balancing the habitat creation and enhancement proposals against the loss of amenity grassland.
Although the Inspector did not think there was a compelling case that the MUGA court was needed by the local community, it will be available, free of charge, to members of the public outside school hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Friday during school term time.
The Council has stated that they will not support any future application for further development of the site, such as erection of floodlights or changing rooms.
Although it’s a shame that more of the open space that makes Shooters Hill such a great place to live is being covered, overall this seems like a sensible decision.