Thursday 09 January 2014
Department for Education’s Free School policy in tatters after it is denied permission for a Free School in Stoke Poges.
The Department for Education suffered a heavy blow to the Coalition’s flagship Free School policy today, with an application for a permanent location for the Khalsa Secondary Academy in Stoke Poges refused by South Bucks District Council. The Department for Education had applied to the local authority to convert the existing Temporary use of Pioneer House granted under Class C of the GPDO legislation to a Permanent use under Class K.
However, the local District and County Council both found the application seriously flawed and had no hesitation in refusing the application on several issues which were in clear contravention of the National Planning Policy Framework, Local Plans and Core Strategy, specifically the following three key areas: traffic, noise and contamination.
Flawed traffic plan is a threat to highway safety:
The Traffic Report from Buckinghamshire County Council’s Highways department stated:
The Department for Education has failed to demonstrate adequate provision within the site to accommodate demand for pick-up/drop-off clear of the highway. The development if permitted would therefore be likely to lead to additional on-street parking and to vehicles reversing onto or off of the highway to the detriment of public and highway safety. The development is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and the aims of Buckinghamshire’s Local Transport Plan 3.
Insufficient information has been submitted with the planning application to enable the highways, traffic and transportation implications of the proposed development to be fully assessed. From the information submitted, it is considered that the additional traffic likely to be generated by the proposal would adversely affect the safety and flow of users of the existing distributor road network, contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and the aims of Buckinghamshire’s Local Transport Plan 3.
The proposed development fails to make adequate provision to allow accessibility to the site by non-car modes of travel. The development will therefore be heavily reliant on the use of the private car contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and the aims of Buckinghamshire’s Local Transport Plan 3.
Noise levels in breach of existing Section 106 Agreement:
South Bucks District Council issued a “S106” Agreement in 1991 when Pioneer House was granted permission for use as an office building, stating: “Noise levels on the boundary of the site shall not as a result of this development exceed 40dB(A) between 07.00 and 22.00 hours and 30dB(A) between 22.00 and 07.00 hours.”
This is in marked contrast to readings of over 80dB measured by neighbouring residents in December 2013, with only a small number of children outside the school buildings. The potential increase in noise for a full school of 850 children – nearly 10 times the number currently enrolled1 – will no doubt see the noise levels increase significantly further, particularly when Khalsa Secondary Academy plans to have a significant number of outdoor activities, including horse riding, archery, martial art, football, hockey and “Community Projects”.
Inadequate evidence to demonstrate previous known contaminants have been removed from site:
Although the Department for Education claims to have carried out selective testing for contaminants on the Pioneer House site, there is little to no evidence that the site was satisfactorily cleared up and decontaminated. The Department for Education’s report does not adequately assuage concerns about the level of contamination which is believed to still be on-site from when the site was used as a chemical research facility, for 42 years (from 1950-1992), with extensive use of radioactive and other contaminative materials in their processes.
Saera Carter, Vice-Chair of Stoke Poges Parish Council, commented: “For the Parish Council and residents of Stoke Poges, nothing has changed in a year that this saga has been going on. We are even more determined to protect our Green Belt and this verdict today vindicates our original concerns about the use of Pioneer House as a Secondary School. As we have stated throughout our campaign, our objections are not against this particular school, but against the use of the site as a Secondary School of any description, as well as the loss of Green Belt in the village. We are relieved that the District Council has listened to our concerns and refused this ridiculous application for a school that Stoke Poges doesn’t want or need.”
Trevor Egleton, District Councillor for South Bucks, commented: “This application has been a travesty from the very beginning. The Department for Education have acted like the worst developer in the world, with every single aspect of what they are proposing in contravention of several national and local planning policies. But the real culprit is the arrogant Chief Executive of Slough Borough Council, who recently announced a land grab on South Bucks Green Belt. That is why I am making it my personal mission to gain the support of all other South Bucks Parishes – Wexham, Iver, Hedgerely, Farnham – all of which stand to lose their green belt to the 8 secondary schools Slough’s Chief Executive has stated will be located outside of Slough.”
The Department for Education is now faced with the prospect of finding another location for this school, and must do so before the existing Class C temporary permission expires at the end of July 2014.
District Councillor, SBDC
Notes to Editors:
1. Under a Freedom of Information request submitted by SPPC, the KSA confirmed there are only 90 students currently enrolled at the Khalsa Secondary Academy in Stoke Poges.