City of York Council has “rolled over” by allowing land owned by one of Yorkshire’s top private schools to be removed from the green belt – making controversial development on it more likely, a councillor said.

St Peter’s School in York, one of the oldest schools in the world, has applied for permission to create a floodlit hockey pitch, tennis/netball courts and cricket nets, plus car parking and coach drop-off areas.

The plans, which would see Westminster Road being turned from a closed street into a through route for coaches and cars, have attracted more than 100 letters of objection by residents.

Supported by York Central MP Rachael Maskell and councillors, the residents say the plans could cause traffic chaos, as well as being detrimental to the environment and infringing on their privacy.

Until recently, the land had been classed as green belt in York’s draft Local Plan, a blueprint which determines how the city will develop in the coming years.

But final amendments to the document, which could be adopted as soon as the summer, have seen the boundary relaxed and the land instead classified as being for educational use.

York Press: How the St Peter's School sports pitches could look (photo: planning documents)How the St Peter's School sports pitches could look (photo: planning documents)

Clifton ward councillor Danny Myers, Labour, urged councillors on the Local Plan working group to remove the amendment to “protect the green belt”.

He said: “Myself and Cllr Margaret Wells are really alarmed by this amendment at this stage, which crucially takes away the presumption against development in this area by the riverside.

“This is an important green lung for not only Clifton, but for the whole of the city.

“In this area of the city – the riverside, Clifton, Leeman Road – there’s an open space deficit and to add to that, the proposed development of this green belt wedge is in a flood level three area.”

Flood defences are already operating at capacity and are not earmarked for any upgrades, Cllr Myers said.

He added: “This means that water goes into people’s homes as it did on Boxing Day 2015. This potentially catastrophic event is made more likely by a decision to redefine green belt in this critical area.”

The council’s corporate director of economy and place Neil Ferris said: “The [Local Plan] inspector specifically visited St Peter’s School, took a tour of the site and looked at the setting of the site and decided that actually, the river boundary provided a much more sustainable and long term green belt boundary for that location.”

This prompted the council to examine the green belt boundaries around schools across York, Mr Ferris said.

He added: “Where there were playing fields, floodlit areas, tennis courts, etcetera, he asked us to look at those and review them in terms of providing a little bit more space around those school areas.”

During the Local Plan examination hearings last summer, the school’s chair of governors accused the council of threatening the success it has enjoyed over 1,400 years by failing to give it the space to expand.

Cllr Myers said after the Local Plan working group meeting that the council had fought to protect its initial green belt boundaries in outer York, but had “rolled over” in the case of St Peter’s.

St Peter’s has said its plan will “enhance sports facilities, increase student participation and ensure more community sports groups can have access to first-class facilities”, as well as reducing the need to travel to pitches elsewhere by bus.