Town councillors reject planning application for new primary school
CORRECTION: the chair of the Temporary Governing Body of Marlborough St Mary's has told Marlborough News Online that there is no truth in the statement that the school will become an academy: "I can confirm that academy status has not even been discussed by the new school's Governing Body and there are no plans to do so."
By six votes to five Marlborough Town Council's planning committee voted (March 7) to object to the planning application to build the town's new primary school on land behind the existing St Mary's school. The new school will combine St Mary's infants and St Peter's junior school and be known as Marlborough St Mary's Primary School.
The town council is only an advisory body on planning matters. The final decision rests with Wiltshire Council. Councillor Nick Fogg will 'call in' the application so it can be debated before Wiltshire Council's Eastern Planning Committee.
During an often noisy discussion, the committee's chair, Councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson, announced that the primary will become an academy school 'as soon as it is built' - see correction above.
This prompted councillors to draw parallels with St John's Academy's sixth form block and the row over its parking provision. It was said that once a school has academy status the land it is built on is private land and beyond the reach of local authorities.
While none of the councillors opposed the building of the school or questioned the need for it, it was thought they had to make a stand on the traffic implications. It was explained that they could not object to any one part of the application and could only object to it all and give their reasons.
The reasons the councillors stated in their resolution to object included:
• an inadequate traffic plan taken wholesale from the 2010 planning application for the school
• the problems posed for the residents of Ducks Meadow
• serious considerations about safety
• the need for a guarantee that the Wiltshire Council scheme giving parents 15 minute parking permits in the George Lane car park for drop-off and pick-up will survive any changes to the current parking regime
• and that negotiations were still underway between Wiltshire Council officers and the Educational Funding Agency (who are paying for most of the school's construction costs.)
The answer to the 'traffic problems' is not simple. Councillor Dobson suggested a lay-by for drop-off and pick-up - this would either mean moving the school further back from the road or taking land from the staff car park, which would cause other problems.
Councillor Hall immediately rejected this idea because it would encourage many parents to drive into Ducks Meadow where they would then have to turn round to re-join George Lane.
During the meeting two residents of Ducks Meadow - Gordon Hutt and Tom White - addressed the committee. Both supported the school, but questioned its impact on their roads - concerns which had not changed since earlier planning applications.
The direction the debate took was set by the committee chair, Councillor Hannaford-Dobson: "We should bear in mind that the Ducks Meadow houses were built in 1971-72 - a good five years before any one of the area's schools was built. Now they have about 2,000 children passing by each day."
None of the councillors who spoke mentioned the difficulties the sloping site posed for any attempt to move its footprint further back from Ducks Meadow, nor the long process of agreeing financing for the school and the campaign to ensure it was a single storey school, nor the long delays since planning agreement was given for an earlier plan in 2010 - nor did they mention the delay their objection would cause.