Inflatable sports dome at Priory School defended
A SCHOOL has defended its new sports facility after critics called it a "blot on the landscape".
Neighbours of the Priory School have raised concerns that the 52m long inflatable sports dome spoils their view of the North Downs.
The structure can be seen from Westcott Road and other residential streets surrounding the school, and many locals are unhappy.
One Hampstead Lane resident, who asked not to be named, said: "Mole Valley District Council has gone mad, I would suggest, in allowing the planning application to be approved for this 'temporary structure'. It is in the middle of a conservation area and, whilst I agree that the pupils of the Priory School should have a sports facility, I think consideration should have been given as to what that facility would look like. This clearly has not been thought about."
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A Longfield Road resident said: "It's pretty hideous and a bit of an eyesore. It's the size and the proximity that's the problem."
The £400,000 cost of the dome was paid by the Diocese of Guildford, and school officials say a permanent building would have cost at least £2.5m.
Head teacher Andre Sohatski said: "The dome has been sunk into the ground as low as possible to make it less conspicuous. It actually cost us more to sink it so it is less noticeable.
"It's a great facility for the school and it saves the taxpayer a great deal of money at a time when the country is struggling with its finances. We have only had one telephone call complaining about the dome. All of the parents are very happy about it.
"I've got sixth form students who have been waiting seven years for this facility as it's the first custom-built sports hall we've ever had."
School site manager Joe Mills says the 1,938 sq m dome will become less visible from Longfield Road after a row of willow and ash trees are planted.
He said: "We are planting trees within the next two weeks so people living behind won't see the dome. We are trying to take local residents into consideration as much as possible."
Assistant head Ivan Morgan added: "I think we were the only school in Surrey without a designated sports hall. This is just creating a level playing field for students."