“We’ve had a battle between St Stephens and the council, now it’s St Mary’s turn. An unfortunately there’s an awful lot more at stake. For the past few years St Mary’s has been raising money for an astroturf pitch. It finally reached the target, and £38,000 was spent on the new pitch at the junior site (adjacent to Orleans Park School).

For some reason, local residents adjoining the site kicked up a fuss, and claimed that the pitch should have had planning permission. A heated meeting took place at the council last night and it transpires that it should indeed have had planning permission. Retrospective permission was declined and an enforcement order issued, so the entire pitch will have to be torn up and thrown away.

The school and staff must feel it’s a real let-down — I personally think it’s awful and I had hardly anything to do with it. One wonders how, if planning was necessary, there was no-one along the way able to advise as such. Not the Governors, Jarvis, the contractors who laid it, anyone from the council… It seems that, once again, this council are failing to support our local schools. For heaven’s sake, it was a piece of school land used by the school as a playing field, they were simply making it an all-weather surface. It is hardly going to impact much on residents, school hours being what they are!

The headmaster, Mr Campbell, has sent the following letter; I’d appreciate if you could publish this on the web site, and if you know of anybody able to give legal or planning advice, please urge them to get in touch with the school!"

from Ed Randall

4th May 2007

Dear Parents


Our retrospective application for the laying of the Astroturf at the Junior site was discussed by the Planning Committee of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames last night. The application was strongly opposed by Councillor Trigg, our local councillor, who spoke in support of the neighbours who are campaigning against the astroturf. Their argument is based on the fact that the land is Metropolitan Open Land which should have been kept as a wildlife / environmental area.

The application, which we had not appreciated would be needed when the Astroturf was laid, was unfortunately rejected. The council has been granted an enforcement order specifying its removal within 6 months.

The school is going to appeal against this decision and we will keep you informed of how this process develops. In the short term, we would be grateful for any offers of help particularly from anyone with detailed knowledge of the planning process. We have been given the names of consultants who are specialists in this field but would welcome further offers of support.

I am sure that the media will be interested in this as a story. I would ask parents, however, to direct all such calls to the School Office for the time being. The Governing Body, staff and FOSM will be coordinating efforts and will respond to queries.

Whilst being a very dispiriting experience, we now have to look forward and plan for the appeal. Thank you for all your messages of support.

Best wishes

Stuart Campbell