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Rougemont School gets green light to use countryside field for sports

aerial photo of a field
An 2006 aerial image of when the school used the land as playing fields (Photo: Google Earth images from planning application)

Rougemont School has the green light to use a countryside field for sports – but Torfaen Council will investigate if it is used for football.

The school had to apply for change of use planning permission to re-use the land adjacent to its site on the outskirts of Newport in the ‘green wedge’ protected area as a playing field.

It was last used by the school in 2006, when it gave up a lease, and was then used for grazing before being allowed to fall fallow. The school had won a 2003 appeal for permission to use the field as sports pitches, as councillors had rejected an application, in 2002, to prevent ‘urban sprawl’ into the countryside.

The new change of use application, which was approved unanimously, is to use the fields for varying sports from cross-country running to rugby and cricket.

A planning condition will limit use of the field to Rougemont School staff and pupils, including their visitors, which Torfaen Borough Council’s planning department said was in line with the permission granted on appeal in 2003.

But the council’s planning team leader Helen Smith promised the authority would investigate if the field is used by football clubs.

Pontnewynydd and Snatchwood councillor Alfie Best asked if the school would be in breach of the condition if “people are seen using it other than the school.” He referred to an access from Pentre Lane, which is to the north of the site, visible on a photograph shown to the committee, at its meeting today.

Ms Smith said the only access to the field is through the existing school grounds and said: “If there are any complaints about use we would look into it and be able to enforce the condition in the event there was any leasing out in terms of football clubs and so on.”

Three members of the public had raised concerns and objections at the impact on wildlife and the biodiversity of the fields and Upper Cwmbran member Steve Evans asked about mitigations.

Pontnewydd councillor Stuart Ashley said he’d previously visited land nearby and was “taken aback” at the number of amphibians he saw with the field close to, but outside, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Conservation area.

The Labour councillor said: “There are enormous amount of amphibians as it’s just off the canal down there, I was taken aback. This field probably hosts a lot of amphibians. The house I went to was on the other side of the canal and I had never seen so many amphibians.”

Ms Smith said a preliminary ecological appraisal had covered all potential habitats on site and looked for protected Great Crested Newts with none found and the council’s ecologist was satisfied with the assessment and the plan to enhance biodiversity and wildlife.

There is no operational development, such as new buildings, planned as part of the application and the ecological appraisal, which forms part of the conditions, sets out an ecologist will be required on call. Much of the site will be left as it is with only the areas to be used for sports pitches mown and regularly maintained.

Planning officer Mia McAndrew also said any potential future development of the site, which was raised by some members of the public, would have to be subject to a new planning application and would be assessed against planning policies that seek to protect the countryside and against development in the green wedge.

She said: “The site is in the countryside, just outside the urban boundary, and policy seeks to limit development in the countryside and the Newport and Cwmbran green wedge.”

She added the “open green character” of the site will be retained and the application as a community improvement is in line with policy while the 2003 appeal had established the principle of the site being used as playing fields.

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Rougemont School gets green light to use countryside field for sports