Opponents of proposed Netherlee MUGA claim it won’t be a community asset

Opponents of a proposed multi-use games area (MUGA) at Netherlee Primary School claim local people are being misled by the suggestion that the facility would be a “community asset”.

The proposed MUGA (multi-use games area) would be built on part of the existing grass playing fields at the school.

The application to create a MUGA at the school is in its early stages, but it has already attracted a large number of objections.

Now opponents of the proposal are calling for the plans to be withdrawn, claiming a new document added to the application stating that the MUGA would be “locked out of use” when not used by the school or booked out by local clubs contradicted proponents of the scheme who had said it would be a “community space out with school hours”.

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The application has been submitted by East Renfrewshire Council’s education department on behalf of Netherlee Primary School Parent Council, as parent councils are not permitted to submit planning applications.

In the minutes of a parent council meeting where the MUGA was discussed, it states that “this is council land so the school can use it in school hours and it would be used as a community space out with school hours and the council would maintain it”.

However, an additional document added to the application in April, states in response to the question “Will the pitch be locked when not in use?” that “yes, the new pitch would be locked out of use but the existing grass pitch would remain open as per current arrangements”.

Opponents claimed this showed that while the proposal was being billed as a community asset at the planning stages, the public would be locked out once it was completed.

One local resident said: “Netherlee playing fields are currently a green space freely open to all. If these plans are allowed to go ahead half of that space will be developed upon and locked away from the public.

He added: “This sleekit plan to half a green space and sneak it through is shameful and must be stopped. Netherlee Primary School should withdraw this application and go back to the drawing board.”

Another statement in the additional document that the existing grass pitch was “currently not used for any formal or informal sport/activity” has also been disputed with opponents insisting it was widely and regularly used by local residents, in addition to school children, and community groups.

There have also been calls for proper public consultation to take place once the current lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is lifted.

These calls have been supported by independent councillor for Clarkston, Netherlee and Williamwood, David Macdonald, who said this was not the right time to be pursuing plans to develop on a green space.

“There is no urgency to have this matter dealt with at this time,” he said. “I feel that proper procedures need to be adhered to and people have the ability to scrutinise this properly.”

East Renfrewshire Council has already previously stated that it was unlikely that a decision on the application would be made in the near future.

On the issues regarding access, a council spokesperson said: “The planning application for the MUGA with fencing and floodlighting at Netherlee Primary remains in the early stages of consideration and is a project which is being led by the school’s Parent Council.

“If approved, the facility would be part of the school grounds with access and management controlled by the school, as is the case with other primary school MUGAs.

“Access to the wider community at similar facilities across the area is allowed on the basis that it is used for its intended purpose and that users are respectful to our neighbours.

“Given the early stage of this application, details of its exact operation have not been finalised.”