Police called over plans to build new sports pitch because 'criminal act likely to take place'

Essex Police has been warned about the “likelihood of a criminal act taking place” if an application for a 3G pitch succeeds, Tendring Council has heard. Councillor Richard Everett has accused Tendring District Council and Essex County Council officers of acting “unprofessionally” in their work to produce a report around the application for a 3G artificial grass pitch at Tendring Technology College in the face of concerns around its impacts on bats.

The independent member representing the ward told the planning committee on Tuesday that should extra work not be done by Tendring Council it is “highly likely to end up in judicial review” should the plans in Frinton be approved. He was particularly concerned about the effects of the plans from noise and floodlighting on what he claimed were bats living close by.

He added that a preliminary ecological assessment is not sufficient because bats "have been surveyed to be present in the hedgerow bordering the 3G pitch". He said Essex County Council ecology has also acted “unprofessionally”.

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He added: “The lack of a species survey and insufficient light survey data conspire together to ensure that the evidence is not present that would indicate the need to protect the bats. Their assertion that the bund protects the bats from light is not backed up by evidence because the necessary surveys have not been done to confirm the effects of light spill.”

But he also warned about the risks of a "criminal act" without proper due diligence. He added: "Let me be clear to officers and to the applicant I have already approached the police alerting them to the likelihood of a criminal act taking place if this application succeeds.

“They are ready to act when wildlife crime takes place which the disturbance of these bats will be. Some individuals are also ready should this application be approved to take out a judicial review over the unprofessional and unlawful actions of this and Essex County Council in not requiring proper surveys.”

The plans have drawn considerable support as well opposition - of the comments received there were 77 objections, many due to concerns around disturbance into residents' properties, and 100 in support.

Among those in support is Frinton & Walton Youth Football Club which says the 3G pitch is "vital to the future sustainability" of the club. It added: Our teams train twice a week and play league matches on either Saturdays or Sundays.

"However, we struggle for good-quality training and match facilities in the Frinton and Walton area. We play our home matches at Frinton Park Playing Field, which is owned and maintained by Tendring District Council. However, the park has a drainage problem and the pitches are waterlogged every year, so we are unable to use them for several weeks every season."

The committee decided to defer the making a decision on the application to allow more surveying to take place. Planning committee member Councillor Jeff Bray said: "I'm minded to defer - we'll decide whether to approve when a time comes so I think deferral seems like the logical thing to do to me Clearly there's a lot of questions, particularly over lights spillage, bats, that I think probably more than one of us over here isn't particularly comfortable with."

A spokesman for Tendring District Council said: “Planning applications are presented for the consideration of decision makers with all material considerations, including expert views. It is up to the planning committee to take these factors into account, along with any representations up to and during the committee by the applicant, residents, councillors and other interested parties as well as any observations they make during a site visit, before making a decision.

"No decision for this application has been made and it was deferred by TDC’s planning committee for a range of issues to be explored further. This included for a bat survey to be carried out alongside a request for details on the construction approach, being mindful of school children’s presence on site, as well as a residents’ noise survey review and investigating any possible change to layout/orientation of the 3G artificial grass pitch.”

Essex County Council referred the request for comment to Tendring Council.