Plots thicken in Fremington MUGA saga

Funding “might be withdrawn” for project on school site

A new twist has emerged in the saga of a multi use games area for Fremington Primary School, with funding from North Devon Council now looking doubtful.

At the executive meeting on Tuesday (March 8) councillors will consider whether an alternative site in the parish should be chosen for the sports facility.

It is recommended funding of �90,000 remain earmarked for a MUGA in Fremington, but not on the school site. It is “section 106” money secured from the developers of Sampson’s Plantation for local recreational facilities.

All this will only apply if Devon County Council does not grant planning permission for a MUGA at the school, if it is granted with conditions restricting community use at the evenings or weekends or if the level of local objections cannot be overcome.

The application has proved controversial of late after objections from some residents living near the school, who feared problems with noise and parking if the area was used extensively at evenings and weekends.

They alleged there had been no public consultation or community engagement over the scheme.

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Cllr Dick Jones, lead member for community and leisure at North Devon Council, said a senior technical officer from Environmental Health had visited the site and suggested “justifiable noise complaints” would be received. Mr Jones said the officer had recommended community use be restricted to 9am-5.30pm on week days.

“Due consideration has to be given as to whether in the light of there being little or no significant community consultation, as well as a recommendation of very limited use by the community outside of school hours, is it appropriate for North Devon Council to fund this type of project in this location,” he said.

“It may well be the case that the programme to provide the community with a MUGA remains feasible and desirable, as and when an alternative suitable site is identified or acquired.”

Local county councillor Rodney Cann said following public concern he had asked the county to extend the public consultation period for a further two weeks.

“I think some of the residents have legitimate concerns which must be addressed and I have undertaken to ensure that their concerns are put to the county’s development control committee when it meets,” he said”

“I am surprised that the district council is discussing the matter and pre-empting the county decision in the manner it is, which is very unusual. That leads me to believe it has been politically motivated.”

School governor Frank Biederman said the proposed MUGA was of the smallest type and would be a huge asset for the young people of the village.

“At the same time I appreciate that the neighbours would have concerns about their quality of life,” he said.

“But it seems bizarre that we can’t work together with North Devon Council to ensure its use by the wider community, but at the same time guarantee when it would not be used, to give the neighbours peace and quiet. I would have thought we could work together to ensure that everybody was happy with a compromise.”

Mr Biederman said the proposed five-a-side pitch would accommodate a maximum of 16 children and be available for not only local football teams, but sports such as netball, cricket practice and perhaps for use by youth groups such as the Scouts and Guides.

A public meeting was being held at Fremington Primary School this afternoon (Wednesday) to let residents see and better understand the official plans.

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