THE proposed development of an all-weather sports pitch at a Tonbridge Grammar School has faced criticism from a leading sporting watchdog.

Sport England, who state that their overarching aim is ‘to increase the number of people doing sport and activity’, have officially objected to the development of the artificial turf as it will ‘lose roughly a third of the [current] playing field’.

Their statement accepts that the new pitch would improve hockey facilities at the school, but ‘would be to the detriment of most other sports that could be played on this area of playing field where natural turf is a more suitable surface’.

The development has split opinion with surrounding residents protesting about the high levels of illumination from the floodlights as well as the increased traffic levels it would create through the single access road to the school in Deakin Leas.

Ironically the commitment to no Sunday use, which was brought in to appease concerned neighbours, was criticised by Sport England.

“It is unfortunate that the community use has been completely omitted from the proposals now as this would have the potential to provide a wider sporting benefit and could have been considered to outweigh the harm to the playing field.”

It concludes: “While Sport England welcomes the school’s ambitions to provide a good quality facility…in this circumstance it is difficult to conclude that the proposed development, which also includes a car park on the playing field (which is for the main school’s benefit rather than sport) is of such benefit to sport to outweigh the loss of playing field, which is a finite resource [sic].”

The school declined to comment on Sport England’s specific objection but said: “Tonbridge Grammar School has made an application for an all-weather pitch that will significantly enhance sports opportunities for TGS students.  The plan is focussed on school use in recognition of the concerns of residents about the impact of opening this facility up to the wider community.”

In 2014, similar plans were rejected by the borough council’s planning committee on the grounds that the increased traffic level would cause an ‘unacceptable level of disturbance to the surrounding residents’.

They are set to meet again on June 29 to decide whether to approve the project this time round.