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Decision day looms for former Newmarket middle school site

Councillors are set to decide the future of a former Newmarket middle school site on Wednesday.

Members of West Suffolk Council’s development control committee are being recommended to approve a Suffolk County Council plan to build 50 homes and garages on roughly half of the St Felix site in Fordham Road despite strong objections from Newmarket Town Council, Sport England and 17 residents.

The controversial plan, which would see the loss of a large proportion of what is one of the town’s last remaining publicly owned sites which could be used as public recreational space, has also been opposed by the Newmarket Community Network, which has compiled its own 34-page report for planners.

An aerial view of the former St Felix Middle School site in Newmarket's Fordham Road
An aerial view of the former St Felix Middle School site in Newmarket's Fordham Road

“Newmarket has a severe deficit of public open space,” said the report which pointed out that a high proportion of current public green space, the George Lambton Playing Fields, was not publicly owned, but leased to West Suffolk Council with 49 years left on the ease.

“The development of sports provision must be a priority for the town, and those sites which are available should be developed for sport in such a way as to incorporate the best practice and experience of our neighbouring towns, where the availability of public open space has enabled the development of innovative and flourishing sports provision,” said the report.

“In Newmarket we must maximise the potential of every piece of land available for sport and recreation - we cannot afford to let opportunities slip away, and we would be wise to learn from our neighbours in West Suffolk.”

In its objection Sport England said the West Suffolk Council’s own playing pitch survey (PPS) concluded that there was a deficit of all pitch types across the district but claimed that was not the case in the Newmarket area where it said there was a surplus so the St Felix site was not needed.

But Sport England said the county council which wants to develop the site through its Edmundham Developments had not provided clear evidence that the playing field was surplus

And since the production of the survey, the Football Federation had said there was an increased demand for football and that clubs had waiting lists because they were unable to meet demand.

“This clearly shows that there are not enough playing fields to meet current demand,” it said.