Expanded sports facilities at Christ’s Hospital near Horsham look set to be approved

Councillors have been recommended to approve plans from Christ’s Hospital School to build an all-weather running track and expand its sports centre.
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It has been quite a journey for the application, which was refused in September 2019 on the grounds that it would cause ‘significant landscape harm’.

The subsequent appeal was postponed in May for administrative reasons and is now scheduled to be heard at a public inquiry on November 29.

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In the meantime, Horsham District Council made a U-turn over its reasons for refusal, saying in March that ‘new evidence’ had come to light and there was no longer ‘a defensible reason’ to turn it down.

So, if members of the planning committee agree with their officers’ recommendation, the plans will finally be approved during a meeting on Tuesday (September 7).

A report to the committee laid out some key differences between the two applications:

The car park will include 47 electric vehicle charging points

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An extra seven oaks and five hornbeams will be planted along Christ’s Hospital Road

The applicant’s ecology assessment report now includes an addendum relating to bats, reptiles and amphibians after new survey work was carried out in July and August.

If approved, the plans will see a two-storey extension added to the sports centre, which will allow for two new swimming pools, spa facilities, two class studios, a fitness suite and cafe.

As well as the six-lane, all-weather running track, there will be an eight-lane sprint track and flood-lighting.

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A 3G artificial grass pitch with flood-lighting will be built along with an unlit outdoor adventure area east of the new track.

There will be parking for 272 cars and a new permanent access onto Christ’s Hospital Road.

The Infirmary Drive access will be closed and the disused section of the drive converted into a sprint track.

Despite the council’s change of heart, 24 objections to the plans have been submitted.

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Concerns included: an increase in noise and traffic on ‘inadequate’ local roads, pedestrian safety, light pollution from the flood-lights, and over-development of the site.

Some were also worried about the facilities being used by clubs and teams outside of the area – though the report said that 32 groups already use the site.

A couple of letters of support saw the plans as an opportunity to boost health and wellbeing in the district and felt the social and economic benefits outweighed any negative impact.

To view the application in full, log on to public-access.horsham.gov.uk and search for DC/21/1524.