A decision on whether a care home can be built on playing fields will be made next week amid opposition from Sport England and campaigners.

Charity Nonsuch Abbeyfield has applied for planning permission to build sheltered housing, consisting of 60 flats and round-the-clock care, in Old Schools Lane, Ewell.

But council officers have made a "finely balanced" recommendation that the plans should be thrown out due to the loss of open space and harm to the character of the conservation area they would cause.

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Officers concluded that these disadvantages outweighed the benefits which would be brought by much-needed elderly accommodation, a new pavilion and improvements to the remaining three pitches.

The decision now rests with the members of Epsom Council’s planning committee who will examine the planning application at the town hall next Thursday, September 4.

A group of the playing fields' users have collected more than 1,500 signatures as part of a petition in a bid to save them.

Sport England, one of the parties consulted by officers on the planning application, has voiced its oppositon to it.

Nonsuch Abbeyfield plans to acquire the 12-acre site from a Catholic educational charity, the Salesians, and bring in Epsom Sports Club to manage the sports facilities.

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Andrew Tibble, chairman of the Old Schools Lane Playing Fields User Group and former principal of Ewell Castle School, said the development would have an adverse impact on traffic and on the environment including the risk of flooding.

He said: "Inevitably there is much emotion evident as a successful application will lead to the eviction after some 80 years of the Old Salesians FC and drastically reduced facilities for other current users in Ewell Castle School and Worcester Park Cricket Club.

"By the same token, I suggest that the owners of the site - the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) - are in effect ‘guardians’ of the land... and protection of these sites is paramount."

In an advertisement in last week's edition of this newspaper, Nonsuch Abbeyfield said its proposed homes were "under threat" and called on people to back their not-for-profit scheme which was being made possible by the legacy of a resident.

Their long-term resident, Audrey, thanked volunteers for their "priceless" time and effort and welcomed the plans.

She said: "It’s a wonderful opportunity to extend Nonsuch Abbeyfield’s services."

The council has received 220 objections but 169 letters and emails in support of the plans.

View the plans, with reference 14/00001/FUL, at eplanning.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/online-applications

Visit the campaign group’s website at www.save-ewell-playing-fields.org

The plans will be discussed by Epsom's planning committee at Epsom Town Hall on Thursday, September 4 at 7.30pm.