Merton councillors approve plan for 'monstrous' flood-lit sport pitches in Mitcham
Councillors have approved plans for two flood-lit games courts at the centre of a conservation area, despite protests from community groups.
Objectors have said floodlighting would cause significant light pollution affecting a rare bat species which uses the area for foraging.
Speaking at a planning meeting on Thursday, December 12, John Strover, chairman of the Mitcham Cricket Green and Community Heritage Group said: "We have been asking Merton Council to restore the former tennis courts at the heart of this site for years.
"We were looking to work in partnership. Instead we have found ourselves confronted with a monstrous proposal that contradicts the council's own planning policies for the area.
"Floodlights, intrusive fencing and the loss of important habitats have no place in the heart of our conservation area."
Two bat surveys were carried out by the council in 2012 which found three species using the area including the common, soprano pipistrelle and Leisler’s bat - the latter considered to be a rare species.
It warned removal of woodland to create the MUGA would have a negative impact on their foraging habits.
The council has put forward a mitigation plan involving a "relaxed mowing" regime of the area and the planting of new plants to help increase insect food supply for birds, bats, hedgehogs and voles.
Labour Councillor Judy Saunders, of Cricket Green ward, spoke in support of the application.
She said: "I have a passion for community football. It’s something I have inherited over the last couple of years.
"I see when kids come out of school they say 'can we play football?' In the winter you can not do it.
"So I want to see this for the kids of Mitcham. Why shouldn't the kids in Mitcham have the state-of-the-art facilities?
"Yes there are other facilities but why shouldn’t we get some of the best as well."
Conservative Councillor Simon Withey pointed out at the meeting council officers had failed to provide councillors with a mock up image of how the courts would look.
He said: "I don't object to the scheme but I think it’s a very brutalist scheme and I think we have been railroaded by the propaganda of the officers on this."
He added: "We have pictures of the current condition and the way the council has looked after it but we have no pictures of how it would look with the roof on or the fencing and I’m suspicious as to why because it would show everyone how it would look."
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