Staff College inquiry - day eight: a campaigner's diary
February 25, 2009
A public inquiry is being held into controversial plans to develop Bracknell's former RAF Staff College.
Campaigners have united into protest group Staff College Residents Against Madness (SCRAM) to fight the scheme by Taylor Wimpey.
Chris Turrell, a Bracknell Forest councillor and SCRAM campaigner, gives getbracknell a daily update of the inquiry.
Most of day eight of the Parks inquiry was taken up with the subject of sports pitches.
Richard Percy, a consultant working for Taylor Wimpey, felt that open space was being made available to Parks residents and the community with the opening up of the former RAF site.
Before, it had been available on a grace and favour basis. He felt that providing junior football pitches would meet demand in the area, and that smaller pitches were "better neighbours" than full-size pitches. There were enough squash and tennis courts in the area, so more were not needed.
He said that in Bracknell, more adults than the national average play football, but noted a dip between the 2006/07 and 2007/08 seasons.
Mr Percy then suggested that, as adult pitches could not be fitted in on the reduced green space at The Parks, they be provided at South Hill Park, next to North Lake.He thought 1.2 hectares would be adequate for two pitches.
Neil Cameron, for the Borough council, pointed out that no allowance had been made for run of the ball on the football pitches, and that if a cricketer hit a six, it could go half as far again as the boundary. Again, no allowance had been made for this in planning the layout of the appeal scheme.
Mr Cameron took Mr Percy through the relevant governing body's recommendations for each of the pitches. None was usable by anyone over 14. With the planned extra housing, he summed this up as "more people, less pitches". Mr Percy felt that the site did not have to provide for all the sports needs of the development.
It was pointed out to Mr Percy that South Hill Park is designated and protected as a heritage site. He agreed he was not a heritage expert. Mr Cameron also said there was no evidence of wide support in the community for Taylor Wimpey's proposals to reduce the open space at the Parks, and that it was unwise to make decisions on sports pitch provision on the basis of two years' figures. The facilities would be in use for many years to come.
Mr Percy then stated that "the Town Council are in a very good position to know what local demand is" before asserting that a letter from them supported demand for more junior pitches.
Challenged on this by Cllr Chris Turrell, it was pointed out to him that the need was for senior pitches, and that quality avaliability and value also affected demand.
Richard Ireson, of Ranelagh School, challenged Mr Percy on the proposed provision of junior pitches only: "What use are under-14 pitches to a school with 18 year olds?". Mr Ireson mentioned the number of football clubs in Warfield. These had grown up since building in the 1990s, and were thriving.
Mr David Lander gave evidence on the planning history of the staff college site on behalf of Taylor Wimpey. He claimed their objective was "to achieve The Parks vision as quickly and unobtrusively as possible", and went on to say that "unless planning permission was granted now, Taylor Wimpey would have to built the approved scheme because of the imparative of maintaining a continuous build programme". He said there was a need for housing, and flet the Planning Brief for the site was of "inferior status" because it had been drawn up a number of years ago.
The inquiry continues at 9.30am tomorrow, when Scram will ask questions on transport and third parties including local councillors will make statements. See www.bycar.com/scram for details.