Green light for outdoor amphitheatre at Hassocks school

Artist's impression of the amphitheatre at Downlands School
Artist's impression of the amphitheatre at Downlands School

Plans for an amphitheatre to be built in the grounds of a Hassocks school have been unanimously approved.

Youngsters at Downlands School will soon be able to show off their acting, music and dance skills in the open air after being given the nod by West Sussex County Council.

Mark Wignall headteacher at Downlands School, Hassocks

Mark Wignall headteacher at Downlands School, Hassocks

Headteacher Mark Wignall said work was expected to start in the spring and the amphitheatre should be open in the summer.

As well as being used for creative lessons, it will also double as a social space for the children.

Mr Wignall told the council’s planning committee: “My vision for Downlands is to create an environment that stimulates young people, an environment that they are excited to attend every day.

“Involvement in creative and performing arts is a hugely important part of children’s cognitive, social and moral development and also vital in engaging young people in school.

“Young people love being involved in music, art, dance, drama and these activities give them another reason to come to school each day.”

While the cost of the project has yet to be finalised, it will be partially covered by a £10,000 grant from the parish council.

Other money will come from the Garfield Weston Foundation, income from the school’s sports centre, and funding from the PTA, who Mr Wignall described as ‘wonderful’.

He added: “This makes the project excellent value for money as the school will need to put little or no money in – subject to final cost.”

The amphitheatre will be created using four tiers of timber in a grassed bank, with three 2.5m high noise reducing acoustic screens at one end.

The application only attracted a handful of responses, with the few concerns centring around plans to allow community groups to use the site when the school was closed.

One person said: “Residents already suffer considerable inconvenience due to school activity during daytime, they have a right not to be subjected to further disturbance outside of school hours.”

But there was also plenty of support, and one resident said: “What a great initiative and resource for the school and community. With so much emphasis on targets and results it is good to see investment in the arts.”

A report to the committee said that there had been no objection from environmental health officers on the condition that the site was not used after 9pm, except for once a month when it could be used until 10pm.

In addition, there was to be ‘no electric amplification of music or voices’ – in other words, no microphones.