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Newmarket town councillors pledge to fight to keep former school site for sport

Councillors have pledged to fight a council’s plans to build 50 houses on a former Newmarket school site so it can be kept for recreational and sports use.

At a meeting on Monday, members of Newmarket Town Council agreed to lobby Suffolk County Council to shift the housing development proposed for the former St Felix School site in Fordham Road, to the former Scaltback Middle School site in Elizabeth Avenue.

The move has the backing of the Newmarket Community Network which in a report to the meeting said: “We believe the St Felix site should remain as a community asset and become home to sports and recreation in Newmarket. It is the last site in Newmarket capable of hosting such a facility which we need to protect.”

The former St Felix school site in Newmarket on which the county council wants to build 50 homes
The former St Felix school site in Newmarket on which the county council wants to build 50 homes

Deputy mayor, Cllr John Harvey, said: “I feel passionate about this and fully endorse the community network’s analysis. The town council has consistently called for the whole of the St Felix site to be retained for community use.”

He said a West Suffolk Council planning review in 2020 said the authority sports strategy urgently needed updating. “I am not aware of any developments since then and there is still no such strategy and there needs to be one,” he said.

Cllr Andy Drummond, who is also a county councillor, said: “I would prefer to see the housing at Scaltback but we were told Scaltback was being reserved for a new school.”

He said the only realistic option the council had was to lobby Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for growth, Cllr Richard Smith, to flip the housing allocation, which has already been accepted into West Suffolk's local plan, its blueprint for the district’s development, to Scaltback.

Cllr Janne Jarvis said: “A sports hub for this town would be a magnificent thing and of huge benefit to our young people. We must fight for it.”

Members agreed to request an extension to the time limit to put their views and ask the district and county councils to reconsider the use of both the former school sites in the context of the development of a sports strategy and a sports hub for the town.

Commenting after the meeting, resident Mark Hatley, who spoke about the issue at a council meeting earlier this year, said: “There appears to be a real risk that the town will end up with more houses and two tennis courts with the promise of something better happening sometime in the future”.