HISTORIC playing fields in Wilmslow will be upgraded after councillors approved plans to transform them.

Cheshire East Council’s northern planning committee has given the green light for Ansa – the council-owned environmental services firm – to overhaul the Browns Lane playing fields, subject to some design tweaks.

It means a new multi-use games area (MUGA), play area and small football pitch will be installed, while the fields’ lighting, pathways and drainage will all be upgraded.

Cllr Toni Fox, Residents of Wilmslow member for Dean Row, told Wednesday’s meeting that the plans were ‘very welcome’ overall – with the fields currently a hotspot for flooding.

She said: “The field has been dry for a number of weeks, but quite often the field is extremely boggy, a natural pool forms where the proposed pond will actually be, and access to the site is difficult.

“You get a huge flood at the main entrance to the site which means to access it you really have to wear wellingtons, and sometimes it is even too deep to do that.”

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Planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval ahead of the meeting – but the plans were not universally popular.

A dozen households wrote to CEC expressing their concerns at the plans – particularly with the MUGA, which they feared could attract anti-social behaviour, and with possible light pollution.

CEC’s environmental health team had also raised concerns about anti-social behaviour and called for a noise management plan – but Ansa insisted it would not have the resources to stop the MUGA being open 24 hours a day.

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Cllr Fox added: “I’m not fully opposed to it but I would like to see what other options are available and – if issues do arise – how they are going to be addressed.”

However, Cllr Tony Dean, Conservative member for Knutsford, told the committee that MUGAs in his ward ‘are not an anti-social behaviour issue’ – with problems taking place on The Moor instead.

And Paul Wakefield, planning officer, insisted there is nothing stopping anti-social behaviour taking place on the playing fields with or without the MUGA.

He said: “Just being a hard surface doesn’t automatically lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour. It is an open area, a lot of people can gather there with or without these facilities.”

Following the debate, members voted to approve the plans subject to Ansa and planning officers looking at ways to lower the level of the lighting and find more suitable locations for bins and benches.

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Cllr Craig Browne, chairman of the northern planning committee, said: “If we could make this scheme as acceptable as possible, addressing the concerns of local residents at the same time, it would seem to be the best way to go.”

The playing fields upgrade will be fully funded by housebuilder contributions from nearby developments, and the scheme will be managed by Ansa.