Council planning oversight forced cricket club to play in exile

<span>Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA</span>
Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

A village cricket club was forced to move venue and fund a “trajectory report” on where balls might land after a council failed to consult properly before allowing a house to be built on the fringes of its home ground.

The risk of damage or injury has led to the club spending nearly two seasons playing in exile after Shropshire council gave planning permission for the home to be built adjacent to the ground without consulting with Sports England.

Members of Hinstock Cricket Club feared it might spell the end for the club amid difficulties in recruiting and retaining players and were ejected from the league in which they were playing due to not fulfilling fixture commitments.

In what he described as a “David v Goliath” battle, the club secretary Stephen Collins, said: “We put in a complaint to the council at first and were very disappointed that they didn’t even respond.

“It’s a village club so we don’t get that many spectators but it’s an important thing from the point of view of people’s mental and physical wellbeing. In effect, the council took that away from the village.”

Describing the club’s treatment as “injustice”, a watchdog has now ordered the authority to build and maintain a new boundary fence to allow Hinstock to return to its home ground after a complaint lodged by Collins was upheld.

A trajectory report commissioned by the club on the advice of the England and Wales Cricket Board found that even though the players were amateurs, a fence of 22 metres in height would be needed to stop all shots. It recommended a fence of 15 metres as a reasonable compromise.

The council has now agreed to recommendations published by the local government and social care ombudsman in response to the complaint, and to reimburse the club for its costs in commissioning the trajectory report.

Michael King, the local government and social care ombudsman, described the case as a “stark example” of how a planning oversight could have a significant impact on the community surrounding a new development.

At a time when rural facilities are being lost, and physical activity and the nation’s health are high on the country’s agenda, it is all the more important that clubs such as these remain within the communities they serve,” he added.

The club member behind the complaint to the ombudsman says that the council gave permission without consulting with Sport England. Under the Town and Country Planning Act (Development Management Procedure) Order 2015, Sport England is listed as a consultee for developments which are “likely to prejudice the use, or lead to the loss of use, of land being used as a playing field”.

Shropshire council was approached for comment.