St Andrew’s CE Primary School in Belfast Street applied to replace its existing grass playing field with a 55×37 metre artificial grass pitch and to add a three-metre high perimeter fence and six ten-metre tall floodlights.
The school want to offer the pitch for community and junior football club use outside of school hours from 5pm to 9pm on weekdays, and 9am to 6pm at weekends.
Headteacher Sophie Thomas explained the school needs an all-weather pitch because it becomes waterlogged so badly PE is cancelled.
She said: “When it rains, especially heavy and prolonged rain, our field quickly becomes unusable due to extremely muddy and waterlogged conditions, during break times, lunchtimes and throughout the school day.
“That impacts massively on PE lessons and outdoor learning sessions, which also then has a detrimental impact on the school’s ability to deliver aspects of the curriculum and playtime.”
She explained the primary purpose is to make sure there is enough safe space for children to play at school.
Residents’ representative Natalie O’Connell said neighbours are concerned about the impact of the pitch on the neighbourhood.
She said the pitch did not comply with Sport England’s is too small and not suitable for club use, and would result in the loss of a green space in central Hove
Mrs O’Connell said: “The noise levels are high from the school and can be heard through double glazing.
“We do accept this is part of choosing to live by a school, but the proposed hours of use mean the noise from shouting and whistles would be relentless.
“Light spill into our homes would keep our children awake.”
She said the houses are “unacceptably close” to the proposed floodlit pitch, with the boundary just one metre away from her home.
Central Hove’s Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson also spoke against the plans as he is concerned sports teams using the pitch outside of school hours would impact the area’s quiet character.
He said: “The site is nestled within a high density of residential homes, and I believe all the surrounding streets would be affected by noise and light pollution, given the close proximity of the neighbouring properties.
“The noise levels from the football pitch would be excessive and unacceptable.
“Local residents are rightly anxious about the impact on the peace and quality of their neighbourhood, which has many occupants with young children and elderly residents who have a right not to be disturbed by shouting, whistles and noisy departures until 9pm every week evening and on weekends.”
Hangleton and Knoll ward Independent councillor Tony Janio who represents residents who live near Blatchington Mill, said the floodlit pitch had made people’s lives “hell” and suggested a 7pm closing time.
He said: “I am a massive sports fan, and I think that children need to double the amount of sport they do.
“It’s a massive conflict, as the ward councillor for the hockey pitches that went into Blatchington Mill, I’d like every councillor to go up there and see them under normal circumstances.
“It has made residents’ lives a misery, and they are a good 30-40 metres minimum away from these pitches.”
Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh wanted an earlier ending time as she has sympathy for the neighbours.
She said: “I live about 80 metres from an all-weather football court and the noise of the football against the fence is so loud.
“We’ve heard from Mrs O’Connell she can hear children at the school through double glazing, but she did not choose to live next door to a football pitch that’s open until 9 o’clock.
“Nine o’clock is way too late. I see kids out playing football until nine o’clock. If we’re going to grant this because the school needs the dosh, we need to put time constraints on it.”
Westbourne ward Labour councillor Chris Henry backed the 6pm finishing time.
He said: “It is an urban school in the most densely populated area of the city. It’s a difficult thing. I want to regenerate that pitch.
“But, it is in a really densely populated area, and this would be a fundamental change with the time and the floodlights and the proximity of the community.”
Councillor Carol Theobald preferred an 8pm ending time as she felt it is a busy area due to the neighbouring Tesco.
She said: “It will upgrade and enhance the quality of sports provision for the school.
“Currently, the pitch is unused most of the year, so an all-weather pitch will be used all year round, which I think is good for children so they can play football, hockey, cricket and other games.”
Green councillor Mairanna Ebel supported the original closing time as it gave the school flexibility.
Councillor Ebel said: “The only reason it is proposed until 9pm is because the school needs to generate income.
“It does not mean every night until Monday to Friday there will be sports until 9pm. There will probably be nights when sports finish at 7pm.”
Councillors voted seven to three to restrict the pitch playing times to 7pm with the site cleared by 7.30pm in the week and to allow the pitch in use from 10am-6pm at weekends and public holidays.
Eight councillors voted to approve the application. Councillor Fishleigh voted against, and Green councillor Sue Shanks abstained.