School’s sports pitch plan is boost for town

Sara Billins, principal of North Oxfordshire Academy.
Sara Billins, principal of North Oxfordshire Academy.

Plans to build a new synthetic 3G sports pitch and floodlights at Banbury‘s North Oxfordshire Academy have been given the green light.

The application was agreed at last Thursday’s planning meeting at Cherwell District Council and the 90mx50m pitch will be built on the western side of the school towards Drayton, with associated fencing and eight 15-metre high floodlights.

It is hoped construction work will start in two years at a cost of around £1 million.

Sara Billins, principal at North Oxfordshire Academy, said: “This is a fantastic development and it is going to be incredible for helping develop sport in the area. It will certainly help meet the demand and there are already lots of clubs who have expressed an interest in using it as soon as possible.”

It is proposed the facility will be made available for community use outside of normal school hours and would be a much-needed playing and training facility for some of the 100-plus affiliated teams within a five-mile radius of Banbury.

Nicholas Turner, Cherwell district councillor for the Hardwick ward, said: “I really welcome this application. It is a great facility for Banbury to improve on what we have already got. But I worry about the fact there is no parking or travel plans in place. Almost every Saturday the school’s car park is completely full.”

Councillor Colin Clarke, who manages the sports pitches owned by Banbury Town Council, said: “The past winter has been horrendous with no end of football matches having to be postponed in the Banbury area because pitches were waterlogged.

“It turned the leagues upside down so I welcome the news of a new playing facility.”

Sport England has identified the need for 3G artificial turf pitches as part of its National Facilities Strategy for 2013-15.

At present, there are only two in the county – one in Oxford and one in Carterton. In Cherwell District Council’s report for the application, it said: “There is a considerable lack of playing and training facilities in the Banbury area and a need to create nine new junior pitches and two mini-soccer pitches to address the shortfall.

“The flexibility and number of games that would be possible on a full size 3G floodlit pitch would outweight the loss of the existing natural grass pitch.”