Rumpus over school floodlights may leave teams without a pitch
Football teams in Bath may be left with nowhere to train or play after complaints that a school is breaking planning rules by operating its floodlights in the evenings.
Training sessions have been held on a new artificial pitch at Beechen Cliff School since September involving a number of different groups including Bath City Youth, with the facilities being used until 10pm.
But residents in the area surrounding the pitch including Greenway Lane and Lyncombe Hill, have raised concerns about the brightness of new floodlights, and have pointed out that a condition of the school's planning permission was that they should be switched off after 6pm.
After an approach from Bath and North East Somerset Council following complaints from residents, headmaster Andrew Davies has imposed a ban on the use of the lights after 6pm from January.
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He is now going to apply to change the planning condition to allow community groups to train on winter nights, although it is not yet clear what cut-off time he will be seeking.
He said he had "overlooked" the need to get the condition changed and added: "I am hoping that we can get a retrospective permission, but am aware that there is a possibility that we will be restricted to having no community time available.
"I will await the planners' view and obviously ask for support from those who feel it would be a useful venue.
"I do obviously hope that the community groups can have the sort of access which our boys and students enjoy as it is a wonderful resource which the local authority and school worked hard together to produce, on time and on budget."
The school has asked users to express their support for the use of the lights in the evening.
Chairman of Bath City Youth Ray Li, whose club trains 350 youngsters on the Beechen Cliff pitch on three separate days, said losing the use of the pitch would be detrimental.
"The problem with Bath is the facilities are quite sparse in terms of floodlit pitches or suitable surfaces for children to train on, which are in a safe environment.
"There are not many around. Apart from Beechen Cliff there's only the University of Bath, Kingswood School and Prior Park and they are all fully booked."
He said: "We would like them to extend it until 9pm and we still believe that is a reasonable hour for the floodlights to be switched off. It's not as if we are asking them to be on until 11pm. If they were only switched on until 6pm that would defeat the point of installing these floodlights in the first place as they can only be used for a couple of hours after school in the winter months."
David Reid, who plays with Camden Dads at Beechen Cliff from 9pm until 10pm on Thursdays, is calling for people who use and value the facility to write to the council in support of the late-night training.
"The withdrawal of the late- night facilities at Beechen will leave us with no obvious alternatives. It probably means the end of Camden Dads football sessions.
"This means that a group of around 40 middle-aged men lose their chance to maintain their personal fitness in a social context, something that they have been enjoying every week for the last six years."
Donna O'Brien, whose 15-year-old son plays with Bath City Youth, said: "How sad in this day and age when we are trying to keep our teenagers off the streets and engaged in sport activities in a positive environment, that people in our local community cannot support the boys and their coaches."
Local residents' associations say they are not necessarily opposed to later operation if something is done to reduce the brightness of the lights.
Roger Nunn of Greenway Lane Residents' Association said: "A lot of people use the pitch and we are not against the use of the pitch.
"There is concern about the height of the lamps and their brightness."
Chairman of the Widcombe Association Paddy Doyle, who lives in Greenway Lane, said: "We received our first complaint from a member of the association some weeks ago, mainly complaining about the unacceptable appearance of the lights at night on the skyline of our World Heritage city."
He added: "While we have sympathies with the school – the pitches could be a valuable source of revenue and furthermore keep our young people occupied – we could not agree to an extension of playing times after 6pm unless the problems of horizontal light spillage and behaviour of those using the pitches were properly addressed."