A PUBLIC inquiry into rejected plans to allow a school to build a controversial new entrance to its sports ground opened today.

Scheduled to last until Friday (October 16), it will look into proposals by University College School to move the entrance of its sports ground, in Ranulf Road, Cricklewood, to the sharp bend where Hocroft Avenue and Farm Avenue meet.

But the plans were rejected last year by Barnet Council’s planning committee, over road safety concerns and the impact it would have on residents and the look of the area. The Hampstead school appealed the decision.

The £6million scheme also included a car park and new sports pavilion.

Many people living in the surrounding areas have been against the plans since they were first submitted, and then rejected, in 1999.

Speaking in support of the proposals, Danny Kesler, of Ranulf Road, said there were daily issues with parking in the street, which would be alleviated by the new carpark.

He said: “It is often impossible to enter our homes, exacerbated by the coaches parking in the roads.

“Whilst we are sympathetic to our neighbours not in support, it is clear something has to be done. Moving all car and coach parking into the site will ease congestion. This would be a great relief to many of us residents.”

But Jimmy Strauss, also of Ranulf Road, said he objected to the scheme.

He told the inquiry: “My main objection is not the pavilion. I think, as was said earlier, most residents are in favour of some form of remodelling the pavilion.”

Mr Strauss questioned why planning permission for the pavilion had not been sought separately from the access point.

He added: “It is on a blind bend. Inevitably there will be an accident.”

Representing UCS, Christopher Boyle QC said: “What will be immediately apparent is how little of the scheme is objected to by the planning authority, and the third parties.

“Central to the scheme before you is a redeveloped pavilion which will serve this important space.

“The provision of the new pavilion and changing facilities is recognised, I hope, to be a benefit of the scheme. The design, the size, the layout, the materials and the approach generally is not objected to.”

He told the inquiry the size of the scheme was appropriate, despite councillors having rejected the scheme over its impact to residents.

Barrister Philippa Jackson, representing residents opposed to the scheme, said: “The group has the support of a large number of residents. Local opposition to this scheme is widespread. The group fully supports the council’s reasons for refusal.”

She added: “We see there is no justification for the creation of a car park for 50 vehicles. The creation of a large car park will only serve to encourage car use.”

Ms Jackson asked the planning inspector, Chris Preston, to reject the appeal.

Gerald Phillips, representing Barnet Council, said noise, disturbance, road safety and the appearance of the proposed maintenance building were the reasons for rejection last year.

Mr Phillips also said the relocation of the entrance would likely have a “detrimental impact” on safety, and the committee felt it would result in “increased congestion”.

The inquiry continues.