Planners say new floodlights have no place in Heathfield

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A SCHEME to replace and upgrade floodlights at a playing field in Heathfield have received the thumbs down from planners.

Heathfield and Waldron Rugby Club want to put up eight new 10 metre lighting columns. They say the lamps are designed so there would be minimum backwards spill behind each and light would be targeted and directional.

The lights would be used from 5.30-9.45pm in the evenings.

But in their report, due to be placed before the committee at a December 15 meeting, officers say ‘the proposals would have an unacceptable impact on residential and visual amenities of dwellings in the vicinity of the site.’

Heathfield parish councillors and Cross in Hand Tennis Club both supported the application when it was first lodged. A Tennis Club spokesperson said the new lights should minimise light spillage and provide improved facilities for people to exercise and keep fit.

The report outlines the Government’s objectives for rural areas which aim to protect open countryside with the highest level of protection for the most valued landscapes such as AONBs.

Set against this is the council’s understanding that Wealden needs more floodlit pitches as players have to go outside the district to train, whatever their sport. It also accepts a planning inspector might well consider that floodlighting might be acceptable in some places so people would not have to travel further than necessary..

But officers say the floodlights would be open to long-reaching views across the AONB to the north, south and south-west, producing a ‘significant swathe’ of light at an elevated and high level. ‘Inevitably by its nature floodlighting does not contribute to the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty and character of the AONB.’ They also note that the 10 metre lights would be visible to people living in nearby Back Lane.

Concluding, planners say the scheme – and the views of the Tennis Club and local residents – have all been considered.

They add: “The inevitable increase in club use with the provision of floodlight facilities cannot be used to justify a scheme that would have a significant adverse impact on local residents and the AONB.”

Officers believe the importance of protecting the AONB and local amenities outweigh other considerations and recommend the scheme should be refused.