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Dance school plans for Cobham playing field denied
Applause filled the council chamber after plans for a dance and drama academy on the playing fields of St Andrew’s School, Cobham, were thrown out by councillors.
The application for a 658sq m single storey building for the Susan Roberts Academy was recommended for approval by officers, but councillors and neighbours expressed numerous concerns.
A late letter from Sport England presented to the committee at the west area planning subcommittee meeting on Monday, August 19, said the building would only be allowed for seven years to prevent the land being lost as outdoor activity space.
Peter Hall, from Charcoalblue Theatre Consultants, said the request from Sport England came in at the last minute but they decided to go ahead with the plans with the requested condition.
Mr Hall said, despite being a temporary building, it would be a quality construction and would benefit the community.
Speaking on behalf of objecting residents, Sue Kilpatrick, chairman of Cobham and Downside Residents’ Association, said: “The main practical objections arise from the overbearing nature of the building, despite being described as one storey, and its proximity to residential properties in Ross Road and Ferndown Gardens.”
Other concerns about the plans included noise pollution, vehicle pollution, insufficient parking and a situation of “continual animosity” between the school and neighbours.
The building would have had no opening windows and therefore needed air conditioning, which residents feared would create additional noise.
Cobham and Downside Councillor Dorothy Mitchell said: “I am sure this academy does a very good job for the children that attend it and I have nothing against the academy per se. I do however feel this is the wrong location.”
Coun Mitchell said finding another home for the academy in seven years time would be “20 times more difficult”.
She also said the building was too near to the boundary of residential properties and did not think it was a “particularly healthy environment for young people to be exercising in air conditioning”.
Councillor James Browne said: “I am not persuaded a commercial organisation is providing sufficient recreational use for the community at no cost to the community. Therefore at the moment, I am not persuaded the provision outweighs the loss of the open space.”
Other committee members were not convinced, with Councillor Peter Harman concerned the council was “trying to sell off some land to a commercial development” at a state-owned school.
Councillors refused the development on a number of grounds, including the design.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Kilpatrick said: “I think there were so many conditions that had to be applied that it was flawed. It was the right results for the resident.”
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