MORE THAN 50 playing pitches in Solihull could be lost to development – sparking fears over the future of sports clubs and players.
Solihull Council has finished consulting borough residents on its draft Local Plan for housing and development up to 2028.
Up to 52 playing pitches could be allocated for alternative development.
Applications to build on playing fields can only be approved if pitches are judged surplus to requirements, or they are replaced by ‘equivalent or better provision’, as outlined in national planning policy.
Despite this, Green Party councillor Max McLoughlin told us he fears some clubs could be threatened if they lose their current premises – or are forced to move.
“This is deeply concerning,” he said. “You don’t ‘replace’ community infrastructure when it’s moved further away from the community it serves. You make it harder for children to access, without parents having to drive them.
“If we end up with more people living here and fewer pitches to play on, that is going to exclude people from playing.
“If we lose pitches, that’s always going to squeeze some clubs into a difficult situation. We can’t afford to lose any clubs.”
Coun McLoughlin says clubs can be priced out of moving to appropriate alternative grounds, and be forced to relocate a long way from where their members are based.
A total of 34 football pitches are outlined as areas for potential development in the Local Plan – along with 11 rugby fields, 6 tennis courts and one hockey ground.
But the council has sought to allay fears saying that of the emerging ‘concept masterplans’ for different sites, many are planning to either retain or replace playing fields.
A Solihull Council spokesperson said: “If development of land including playing pitches is to take place, either the playing pitches will need to be retained, or replacement facilities will be essential, with improvements where possible.
“In practice, development resulting in the loss of playing pitches without adequate replacement will not be considered or be deliverable.”
The Local Plan consultation results came amid a battle to save the Land Rover Sports and Social Club’s playing fields from Jaguar Land Rover’s plans to build on them.
We spoke with Solihull Moors youth coach Ant Hasker who claims the borough does not have many green spaces left for sports teams to use.
This is reinforced by the Birmingham and Solihull Playing Pitch Assessment Report 2017, which outlines an increasing deficit in playing fields in the borough, the council says.
Developments on playing fields are also protected by Sport England – a statutory consultee on developments – which can object to applications threatening playing fields.