AN EXPANDING school in Southbourne has been given permission for a new multi-use games area, to the anger of residents living nearby.

The controversial plans for the games area (MUGA), which originally saw designs for a six-court ground complete with flood lights submitted to the council, concerns secondary school St Peter’s in St Catherine’s Road.

Residents penned 64 letters objecting to the initial proposals, citing fears about a potential increase in traffic, parking problems, litter and noise.

But at Bournemouth Borough Council’s Planning Board meeting on Monday, councillors dismissed their concerns and voted unanimously to support the new scaled-back MUGA.

Councillor Roger West said: “I am sympathetic with the neighbours. However, it is rather like moaning about being underneath Hurn airport. It has been there a long time and it makes a lot of noise.”

Gary Werrey-Easterbrook, who lives in nearby Sunnylands Avenue, called for a number of restrictions to be set, including that the ground must close at 6pm and can only be used by pupils from the school.

He said residents had worries that the MUGA would be used for five-a-side football, adding: “That in particular gives us concern, with the noise and potential for aggressive language.”

Mr Werrey-Easterbrook said neighbours believed the school had been “planning by stealth”.

“Residents have a right to a peaceful life,” he argued. “It’s unacceptable that there could be noise to 9pm.”

Deputy head Martin Egan sought to reassure neighbours, and said: “We have a long history in the community and we have listened very carefully to the concerns raised by that community.”

A redesign of the plans for the MUGA will see the number of tennis and netball courts reduced to four.

It will also be allowed to open only between the hours of 9am and 1pm on Saturdays.

Sport England had objected to the application, claiming it would prejudice the existing playing field and prevent pitches from being marked out.

Even though the plans have been unanimously approved, because of the organisation’s objection they will be referred to the Secretary of State’s National Case Unit for a final decision.