Disappointment as firm pulls out of school project

The private company which wanted to build controversial sports pitches at Thomas Becket School in Northampton has pulled out of the project, leaving the school "bitterly disappointed".

PlayFootball had got to the planning stage for a facility that would have seen several artificial pitches built at the school, which is in Parklands, plus a licensed bar.

The school, which is a Specialist Sports College, argued it needed the pitches to support its sporting ethos but residents living near Kettering Road North feared congestion and noise around their homes would result.

It has now been revealed that PlayFootball withdrew its planning application last week after discussions with planning authority the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC).

The school confirmed yesterday that PlayFootball has now scrapped the development altogether.

John Paver, the director of sport at the school, said: "We are bitterly disappointed in the outcome.

"We believed this project would have enriched the educational and sporting experience of our students and the community.

"It's unfortunate that reports on some areas of the project were exaggerated in our opinion.

"PlayFootball were also disappointed with the lack of support in some areas.

"We are looking forward to a co-operation with local residents who have promised to help us achieve our goals.

"We are now looking at our options to ensure that our wonderful students get the facilities they deserve."

The school has said that the only way it could improve it sports facilities for students was having pitches paid for by an outside company.

But residents formed an action group and campaigned to stop the plan, both because of moral objections to having alcohol served on school grounds, and potential congestion caused by thousands of footballers a week using the pitches out of school hours.

A spokeswoman for the group said it was relieved the commercial option had been scrapped but stressed that it had always supported the school finding other alternatives.

She said:"Thomas Becket is a good school and we've said all along that the pupils should be provided with the additional all-weather sports facilitiesthey realistically need.

"We have already written to the headteacher and the Roman Catholic Diocese, offering to work with them on accessing funding for these extra resources, providing they now abandon the commercial option.

"Hopefully we can pull together to achieve improved sports facilitieswhich meet the needs of both the school and the community."