Netting plans to protect Sidmouth public from stray cricket balls given go-ahead

Issues with cricket balls hitting pedestrians on the The Esplanade hit national headlines last year after a freak accident, where a 80-year-old woman was left needing around 14 stitches in her head.

Previous bids, by Sidmouth Cricket Club, to install netting around the Fortfield Terrace ground were thrown out by district planners because the location was in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

A £20,000 scheme to build seven metre high retractable netting, which can be moved up and down on the southern perimeter of the field, has now been approved.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) granted the application, submitted by the club, on Monday (January 7).

The Herald reported on the plans after Sidmouth Town Council backed the scheme in November.

Neil Gamble, chairman of the Sidmouth Cricket and Croquet Club, said an application to instal netting was rejected by EDDC as it was not in keeping with the area which is surrounded by listed building.

EDDC said it would need to be taken down after every match, so instead it worked with the club on the latest application for retractable netting. The scheme includes the installation of netting along the southern perimeter, as well as plans to increase the height of existing protection to seven metres on its western boundary.

In its application, the club said: “During the cricket season the view out to sea from Fortfield Terrace properties would be minimally affected when games are in progress.

“Motivation for the proposal is health and safety. The changing nature of cricket in the last 15 years has seen the ball hit harder, higher and further.

“Sidmouth Cricket, Tennis and Croquet Club is keen to avert the possibility of more serious incidents by providing the best possibly protection while minimising impact on a sensitive environment.”

EDDC approved the plans under the condition the netting on the southern boundary was stored away when cricket was not being played and at all times, outside the months April to September.