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RE8  Criteria for Artificial Playing Pitches  Policy

The Local Planning Authority will support the increased provision of artificial playing pitches, subject to Policy RE1, but before granting consent for artificial sports pitches at sites already used for sport, will need to be satisfied that:

(i) operational requirements arising from the increased use of the facilities, such as provision for parking, access and servicing, can still be adequately provided for within the curtilage of the site; and

(ii) the impact of increased use of the pitch and facilities on neighbouring uses, in terms of noise or other disturbance, can still be contained within acceptable limits.

Where the proposal involves the loss of existing grass pitches, the potential benefits arising from the artificial pitch will be balanced against the need to retain an adequate supply of grass pitches for competitive play.

Reasoned justification :

9.29 Artificial turf playing pitches are becoming an increasing feature of modern provision for sport and recreation. While they are already an essential requirement for some sports, such as top level hockey, they are capable of providing for a wide range of activities.

9.30 Wirral has a number of all-weather pitches, but there are only two artificial turf pitches - one at Wirral Sports Centre in Bidston and another at the McAllester Memorial Playing Field in Oxton, used jointly by Birkenhead School and Oxton Hockey Club. Opportunities to exploit the advantages of such facilities are, therefore, severely limited and the Council is keen to promote additional provision in appropriate locations.

9.31 Synthetic surfaces allow for significantly increased levels of use. While this is an important benefit, especially where there is already a deficiency of pitches in an area, intensified use also has implications for planning requirements and on neighbouring uses. Hourly bookings typically lead to a far higher turnover of teams and players than conventional pitches normally generate, with a corresponding increase in traffic to and from the site and in the number of car parking spaces required. Policy RE8, therefore, provides for these considerations to be taken into account and specifically provides for the protection of residential amenity, which is particularly sensitive to the impact of increased levels of use outside normal playing hours.

9.32 The need for grass pitches for competitive play will remain for most sports, even where modern artificial pitches are provided. Policy RE8, therefore, seeks to balance the benefits of providing a synthetic pitch with the need to retain conventional playing surfaces. This balance will normally hinge upon the distribution and quality of playing pitches within an area. The loss of a good quality, well-used grass pitch will rarely be justified, but the replacement of a poor surface, or the provision of an artificial turf pitch where other grass pitches continue to be available locally, will be far more preferable.