Cricket club fence may have to come down

Little Waltham Cricket Club near Chelmsford may have to tear down a perimeter fence – because it blocks a frequently used route through the park it sits in.

The cricket club, which is based in Taylor Park, says the 2.4m high fence has been installed to prevent dangers arising from dog fouling and to prevent harm to the public from fast moving cricket balls.

The club has argued that if the ground cannot be made safer the club will cease to exist and the amenity turned over to housing development.

A report to Chelmsford City Council’s planning committee, which is hearing the application next week, says officers have sympathy with the club, but adds it is not uncommon for many other sports pitches to be open to the public when not in use.

Other measures to prevent dog fouling such as accessible bins could be explored.

Furthermore, it adds the club has operated close to residential properties without fencing of this height.

It is also considered that fencing of 2.4m in height would not completely eliminate risk of cricket balls travelling outside of the pitch.

Taylors Park is described as being at the heart of  the village and is designated as open space within the council’s adopted and emerging development plans.

Little Waltham Parish Council has also objected to the application because of the substantial detrimental impact upon the conservation area.

In addition, the parish council says there is insufficient impact upon sporting facilities to outweigh the adverse impact upon the conservation area.

Indeed, the fence precludes residents from enjoying the amenity of a public open space adjacent to a group of listed buildings in The Street, including the White Hart Inn.

A statement to the committee said: “The cricket club is a valued local club and opportunity to promote outdoor sport, however there is little evidence to suggest that the club could not continue to exist without the fence.

“The club is a long standing part of the community and it is difficult to see what has changed in the last couple of years to threaten the running of the club without the fence.

“Whilst the fence would be of benefit to the cricket club, and carry a small amount of public benefit, the disbenefits of the proposal are significant.

“The obstruction and segregation of the public open space weighs heavily against the proposal. Furthermore, the harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area has received high levels of public objection.

“Overall, it is considered that the proposal has a negative impact on the local community and the public, rather than being a public benefit.

“The less than substantial harm caused to the conservation area, and harm to the amenity and function of the open space, would not be outweighed by public benefits.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter