Committee says no to King’s Lynn school expansion plan

MP Henry Bellingham listened to the safety concerns of residents at a meeting on Saturday morning. ANL-141129-122921009
MP Henry Bellingham listened to the safety concerns of residents at a meeting on Saturday morning. ANL-141129-122921009
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Critics of plans to double the size of a Gaywood primary school have called for officials to consider what they say are better alternatives to the scheme.

Members of the West Norfolk Council planning committee voted by 13 to one to object to the proposed expansion of the St Martha’s Catholic Primary School, on Field Lane, at a meeting yesterday.

The vote came after local residents set out their concerns over the scheme in a meeting with North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham on Saturday.

And, ahead of the planning committee’s deliberations, Mr Bellingham urged Norfolk County Council, which will make the final decision on the scheme, to consider alternatives.

He suggested the authority should look at using the sites of existing schools which have closed or are set to close to provide a new Catholic school for the area.

He claimed the King George VI School in Great Bircham, which is set to close later this month, could be one possibility.

He added: “They have got to listen to West Norfolk for once.”

If approved, the plan would allow for up to 210 more pupils to be taught at the school, doubling the current numbers on roll.

But resident Malcolm Chambers told the committee the current proposal was “ill-conceived and badly planned”.

He added: “Local residents are already concerned with the intolerable level of traffic now.

“There are, as of now, near misses on a daily basis. What will it be like with hundreds of new vehicle movements each day?

But Helen Bates, speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia which has submitted the proposal, said both it and the county council were “well aware” of the traffic problems in the area.

She said the plan to introduce a dedicated drop-off area, as well as building 40 additional on-site parking spaces for staff would help to address the issue.

She told the committee: “Catholic schools do not have a catchment area as community schools do. While St Martha’s is the nearest Catholic school in a 12 mile radius, 94 per cent of children live within two miles of the school.

“St Martha’s is very much a school that serves its local community.”

But committee member John Loveless said the drop-off area did not solve the traffic problem, while Chris Crofts also criticised the plan for the loss of playing fields from the school site.

However, former borough mayor Geoffrey Wareham warned that traffic concerns had not stopped the county council from pressing ahead with its plans to expand the former Clackclose Primary, now Nelson Academy, in Downham.

He also criticised the council for not opposing the sale of the former Alderman Jackson School site, on which the committee approved plans to build new homes in September, because of a perceived lack of demand for school places.

He asked: “If the council is that bothered, why didn’t it object to that?”

The application is now expected to go before a county council committee in the new year.