The Principal Planner presented the application and in doing so first updated the Committee that since the agenda had been published 3 additional objections had been received citing access to the site and an increasing in traffic.
He went on to explain the application constituted a major application. Given the location of the site in the Green Belt and the nature of the scheme this would constitute a departure from the Core Strategy and NPPF and if Members were minded to approve, the application it would need to be referred to the Planning Casework Unit. Members heard the application proposed the development of a new school for up to 140 pupils aged between 5 and 16 with special education needs with alterations and extensions to the existing car park.
The Principal Planner continued to highlight the application proposed a new
School building which would be a single storey structure and would comprise new classrooms, school halls, staff floorspace and ancillary accommodation arranged around an internal courtyard. The site area included a large part of the existing car park serving the existing Treetops School and Beacon Hill post-16 facility and the proposals included alterations to the layout of this area as well as new parking areas. Within the ‘red-line’ application site there were currently 121 car parking spaces, this included spaces for disabled users, as well as drop-off / pick-up areas for vehicles. The proposal would increase the number of car parking spaces within the application site by 111 to a total of 232 spaces. Access to the remodelled and extended car park being via the existing route via Buxton Road.
It was stated that the Planning Statement also noted that, due to the specialist nature of the school, there was a higher staff to pupil ratio and both pupils and staff would originate from a wider catchment area.
During discussions the Chair queried as to the footprint of the old school against the current application. It was stated that Officers wouldn’t want to estimate as the former school building were demolished a number of years ago, however in general it was deemed that the old school buildings be bigger in footprint. The Principal Planner advised that detailed work had been undertaken relating to access routes, school transport and drop off points in response to highways issues.
Councillor Fletcher commented on the report which stated that highways shouldn’t greatly increase in traffic. Officers commented that there were no objections from Highway Officers and work had been undertaken as to the creation of the new car park, which would create a single access point.
Councillor Shinnick stated the turning at the end of Buxton Road was a nightmare. She further stated that she felt another road junction should be put in place, as there was not the infrastructure required for this application. The Principal Planner commented that the site had been used as a school for a number of decades and access had always been through Buxton Road. He further commented that permission for a school on the site had already been granted in 2006/7 and, as this permission had been implemented, it remained extant.
The Principal Highways Engineer advised the traffic on King Edwards Drive and surrounding roads had been left in and right out for the last 15 to 20 years. He also commented that the live application was for a larger development and was granted in 2007.
Councillor Churchman sought as to whether to drop off points would be within the school grounds. The Principal Highways Engineer explained there would be a main car park with internal one way roads for parking and a one way system around the site that would be in place.
Councillor Sammons raised concerns as to the width of the gates on the school. She stated that you would not be able to get a car and a school mini bus through at the same time, therefore one could not enter while the other was leaving. Highways Officers commented they would look at the access gate to the school and would take back to the school, as it was possible something could be added to the travel plan.
Councillor Redsell, Ward Councillor, presented her statement in objection to the application.
Clare Preece, Agent Representative, presented her statement in support of the application.
Members went to the debate during which the Chair of Committee commented it was not an easy application, school places were required; however there were some issues that needed resolving. He further commented it was pleasing to see the Council and the applicant work so well together, never the less he had concerns over the issue of access and this included the gates to the school. Officers had advised that an additional condition could be attached to any grant of planning permission to allow the access to the site to be reviewed and amended as appropriate.
Councillor Churchman agreed with the Chairs comments adding that he felt additional access to the site was required.
Councillor Churchman proposed the Officer’s recommendation for approval (subject to the additional condition relating to access) and was seconded by Councillor Baker. The Committee moved on to the vote.
For: (6) Councillors Tom Kelly (Chair), Mike Fletcher (Vice-Chair), Chris Baker, Colin Churchman, David Potter and Sue Sammons.
Against: (1) Councillor Sue Shinnick
Planning application 19/00725/FUL was approved planning permission following Officer’s recommendation.