Plans have been unveiled for a new sports hall at Reepham High School & College (RHSC) as part of a wider project to build 141 houses on land off Broomhill Lane.
According to a planning application (20201183) submitted to Broadland District Council on behalf of the high school, the facility would include a four-badminton court sports hall, changing rooms, meeting, office and studio space, as well as two teaching rooms.
The building would be sited on part of the existing school playing fields, adjacent to Whitwell Road.
The 1,340 m2 sports hall would be partly funded by proceeds from the 7.5-hectare residential development planned by property developer Lovell Homes, which could add around 320 new residents to the town and includes an extension to the Whitwell Road cemetery.
RHSC headteacher Tim Gibbs argued that a new sports hall would benefit both the high school, which currently has around 810 pupils with an additional 240 within the sixth form college, and the local community, providing local sporting teams and groups with a base from which to operate outside school hours.
However, in a report published in the Eastern Daily Press, Mr Gibbs admitted there were still uncertainties around the project, and that work on the sports hall would probably not start for another five years.
Opponents of the housing development say the latest application is simply being submitted as a “sweetener” and a “bribe” to justify the proposal for an additional 21 houses to the 120 dwellings originally proposed.
Campaigners also point out that Sport England has lodged a holding objection, on the grounds that the new site for the sports hall could result in the loss of grass sports pitches.
In its objections, Reepham Town Council noted that the site, at 0.48 hectares, is not part of the land off Broomhill Lane, as specified under the approved site allocations document, but instead takes up a significant proportion (one fifth) of the remaining high school playing fields.
It added that this would result in the loss of open space and further reduce the school’s capacity for future expansion.
Other objectors to the proposed Broomhill Lane housing scheme, who include the town council, have cited the increased demand on the town’s overstretched infrastructure, including the sewage system, and the increase in traffic on nearby roads.
In addition, only 28 (20%) of the proposed 141 dwellings will be “affordable” or “social” housing, rather than the policy target of 30%.
Local lobby group Realistic Reepham, which opposes large-scale housing estates, pointed out that the last “affordable” houses to be built in Reepham were 11 units constructed in 2009.
The group’s founder, Mark Bridges, who lives on Broomhill Lane, next to the proposed development site, said many residents felt the community would be paying a high price in terms of extra traffic, overloaded infrastructure, disruption and the loss of green space for a sports hall that “should be provided by the education authority”.
“Building on a playing field is short-termism,” he continued. “Taken together, the housing and sports hall will use 30% of the current grass playing fields. Long-term, taxpayers’ money will be needed to buy extra playing fields.
“If you asked residents of Reepham and the surrounding area what extra sporting facilities they’d like to see, they might mention a gym or even a swimming pool.”
See our earlier stories:
- School sports hall has costs as well as benefits
- Community benefits from new high school sports hall
- Town council objects to Broomhill Lane housing development plans