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Birchwood High School plans to build major sports and leisure complex on Pearse House site between Parsonage Lane and Dunmow Road to benefit school and community



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Birchwood High School has unveiled plans to build a multi-million-pound sports complex that will benefit its students and the community.

The Parsonage Lane secondary has turned down multiple offers from housing developers to buy the eight-acre site – opposite the school in the grounds of the Pearse House development off Dunmow Road – and is instead opting to build a state-of-the-art sports and leisure facility.

It could also become the new home of Bishop's Stortford Football Club if it decides to relocate from Woodside. The two parties are in "advanced talks" and the club is holding a fans' forum on Thursday evening (June 24), when it will update supporters on its plans.

Plans for Birchwood High School's new sports and leisure complex (48426433)
Plans for Birchwood High School's new sports and leisure complex (48426433)

The Birchwood complex will feature a floodlit artificial football pitch with spectator stands, a mountain bike/cyclo-cross track, a low-lit, traffic-free running path and a pavilion that will house a multi-purpose gym, changing facilities and space designed for social and arts pursuits along with fitness classes such as yoga, Pilates and spinning.

British Cycling backs the project and wants to use it as a new Hertfordshire hub while British Triathlon has also shown an interest in getting involved.

The site, which is owned by Birchwood and currently used for sport and PE, includes a three-acre woodland that will be retained.

Birchwood's deputy principal Charles Gilbank, who has taken on the role of project lead, said the school's emphasis on improving its 1,500 students' physical and mental fitness was one of the driving factors behind the complex, as was a desire to provide more sport and leisure facilities for the town's growing population.

"Birchwood High School is committed to the health and wellbeing of our young people, particularly post-Covid when such concerns are more important than ever," he said.

"The physical, social and mental benefits of this new facility would be enormous and, as we open up from lockdown, one of our key educational aims is to encourage fitness and enable resocialising, both of which are done so well through sport.

"We simply cannot overestimate the power of sport to increase the holistic wellbeing of our young people, as well as the broader local community.

Birchwood High School's deputy principal Charles Gilbank on the Dunmow Road site which could become home to its sports and leisure facility. Picture: Vikki Lince
Birchwood High School's deputy principal Charles Gilbank on the Dunmow Road site which could become home to its sports and leisure facility. Picture: Vikki Lince

"Birchwood, and Bishop's Stortford more generally, are lucky to have some good existing sports infrastructure. But with a growing local population and increasing demand for fitness, we believe that our school, with its long tradition of local outreach, is well placed to build on our already successful community facilities to offer the very best in sport and leisure to Bishop's Stortford and the surrounding area."

Mr Gilbank said the school had held discussions with its neighbours and nearby residents as well as consulting councillors and MP Julie Marson.

The school is keen to hear people's comments on the project ahead of the plans, drawn up by architects Wilby & Burnett, going out for public consultation in July and throughout the planning process.

"It's vital that we learn from past developments to ensure a sensitive and sustainable plan for the future, which appeals to Birchwood High and local residents alike," said Mr Gilbank.

The school's intention is to fund the project externally and it is interested to hear from potential partners.



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