A campaign to stop the construction of more than 70 new homes in Wrexham has received the backing of two national organisations.
Both Sports Wales and Fields in Trust Cymru have voiced objections to proposals to develop houses on playing fields at Dean Road in Rhosnesni.
They said the loss of the green space, which is used by children’s’ football teams, could not be justified.
It comes after an application for up to 74 houses was entered last year by Wrexham Glyndwr University, which intends to sell the site to help bank roll improvements worth £60 million to its main campus on Mold Road.
Richard McKeever, communications manager for the Fields in Trust charity which aims to protect green spaces, said: “Fields in Trust is fundamentally opposed to the loss of outdoor recreation space in all but the most exceptional circumstances.
“Fields in Trust works closely with Sport Wales as the statutory consultee on planning applications affecting playing fields and supported its objection to the proposed development at Dean Road as no justification was provided for the loss of playing field area”.
Sports Wales is the main adviser on sporting matters to the Welsh Government. It added no evidence was provided by the university to satisfy planning policy.
Rhosnesni councillor Mike Davies (Ind), who is backing residents in their bid to oppose the scheme, said the intervention of the two bodies was welcome.
He said: “Several years ago, someone else tried to apply for planning permission on that land and one of the council’s objections for planning was there was a shortage of green spaces in the community.
“One of Borras Park Albion’s teams plays on there and I know every year there is a big football festival there. Something like 50 teams turn up and the car park is absolutely packed.
“Young kids use it and adults walk through there to walk their dogs.”
Wrexham Glyndwr University has previously promised to create a new sports pitch to replace a number which will be lost as a result of the development.
However, in response to a consultation on the plans, Wrexham Council said it owned part of the land earmarked for the new pitch and had not been asked for permission.
Martin Howorth, Wrexham Council’s parks, countryside and rights of way manager, has highlighted his objections because of the shortage of pitches in the area.
In an email he said: “If the residential development went ahead there would be a loss of public open space, but more importantly, the loss of an area of open space that can hold a number of football pitches for junior and or senior games.
“I note the planning application proposes a single football pitch would be retained, through siting the pitch partly on Wrexham Council land.
“This would reduce the pitch capacity within the town centre area which is highly unlikely to be supplemented in the future, due to the lack of availability of large areas of open space or development land that can be converted to sports pitch use.
“This isn’t adequate to encourage the further development of outdoor sport and encourage young people to become fitter and healthier in the densely populated urban area of Wrexham.”
In response to the comments, a spokesman for the university has disputed that the field is public open space.
He added the sale of the land was vital to plans to upgrade the institution’s main campus.
He said: “The land at Holt/ Dean Road owned by Wrexham Glyndwr University is not public open space.
“However, as a university, we want to work with the local community and enable the use of part of the site for leisure and green space – as well as for the use of outdoor sports.
“With that in mind, we have proposed gifting a section of this land to be used for these purposes – and we are currently in discussions with the local authority to allow this to go ahead.
“The sale of the remainder of our Holt/Dean Road site is integral to our Campus 2025 strategy, which will transform our campuses and bring significant regeneration to Wrexham, helping to create a vibrant community.”
The council is expected to make a decision on the proposals at a later date.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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