The Planning Inspectorate has dismissed plans to build an astroturf pitch in the middle of Green Belt land, saying it would do ‘serious harm’ to the countryside.
Berkhamsted School first submitted an application for the Kitcheners Field playing field in 2011.
But after mass opposition from rural campaigners and neighbours, councillors rejected the proposal.
The independent school then appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which has now also rejected the proposal.
The pitch – which would be used for hockey – would have been just across the road from Berkhamsted Castle in a Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The Planning Inspectorate’s report says: “The site forms part of an attractive landscape, where there is a mix of farmland and woodland in rolling countryside.”
Kitcheners Field consists of ‘well-tended grassed sports fields’ that fit in well with nearby farmland, the report says, but the pitch would look more ‘urban or suburban’.
The report says: “The all-weather surface of the pitch will stand out as being artificial, and it would be readily distinguishable from the undeveloped playing fields.”
The report praises the school for offering to share the proposed pitch with Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead Hockey Club.
The plans have the support of Sport England and would help fill a shortage of hockey pitches in Herts.
But the Planning Inspectorate questioned why Berkhamsted School can’t instead use the Ashlyns School astroturf pitch, or build one in the former Haresfoot School, which it recently bought.
The report says that both sites are nearby alternatives.
Berkhamsted School says it is now reviewing its options.