Proposals for a new community sports hub in Hailsham have gained planning permission.
On Thursday (January 25), Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee South approved the council’s own proposals to build a community sports facility at the Knights Farm development to the north of Hailsham.
The final scheme is expected to include a wide range of facilities, including: two artificial football pitches; two multi-use games areas; two padel tennis courts; a skate park; play facilities; as well as a main building containing changing rooms, toilets and a café.
While recommended for approval, planning permission was only granted on the narrowest of margins, as several councillors had significant concerns about the scheme.
Among those to raise these concerns was ward councillor David White (Ind), who said: “Sport is a noisy activity and the attraction of a large number of participants to a site in an area where there is a low level of ambient noise, will involve disturbance to both local residents and the local ecology.”
He added: “This is not a suitable site in planning terms and I urge members to reject it on the basis that it fails the accessibility test, it damages the countryside, it is an area of flood risk, will create disturbance for the neighbours and is not supported by the parish council or local residents.
“It is also not supported by Hailsham Active, the local sporting facility.”
Similar concerns were shared by committee members, ultimately leading to a tied vote on a motion to approve the scheme in line with the officers’ recommendation. The deadlock was broken in favour of approval by committee chairman Gavin Blake-Coggins (Lib Dem).
This result proved to be controversial with some, especially because questions had been raised earlier in the meeting about whether some members had become predetermined through previous discussions about funding for the scheme.
Raising these concerns as a point of order, Cllr Neil Cleaver (Lib Dem) said: “When this came to full council, members of this committee, certain ones, did speak on this application and I personally think they are predetermined on this application.
“So are these members not going to vote?”
Officers, however, argued it was for individual councillors to determine their own position and adherence to the council’s code of conduct.