The school’s new 3G football pitch was approved due to concerns about the impact of floodlights

A school will have to demonstrate that lighting football pitches will not have a negative impact on the environment before it can proceed with the development. The new Rickstones Academy in Witham has been given permission to develop a 3G artificial football pitch for use by the school and private hire in the community.

But the development can only go ahead if ecology experts are convinced that the excess light from floodlights will not adversely affect the nearby ecology – especially bats – in the area. Of particular concern is the effect this could have on wildlife in the John Ray Walk – a 9-mile linear walk between Braintree and Witham, named after the 17th-century betrothed natural historian – which runs nearby.

Member of Braintree Council’s planning committee, Councilor James Abbott, said: “We get on very well with Rickstones Academy and recently Chatten School. They turn the lights off at a very reasonable time at night and one of the reasons for that is to protect the John Ray walk which has a bat corridor. There is no assessment in this application for the John Ray walk.”

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The council has said that ecology experts must be satisfied, after light impact assessments, that the impact will not be harmful before development can begin. Neil Jones, chief planning officer at Braintree Council, said: “I think the applicant would agree to a Lux level of one contour being provided.

“We could consult our ecologist so that they could be provided with that information, despite the fact that they had a purpose when they originally supported the application, but we could ensure that they had that additional information and then that condition would have to be fulfilled before the start of development.”

Tom Betts from the school said: “The illuminated facility would be visible to spectators at night, but it does not illuminate the wired landscape, but the land immediately surrounding the facility.”