Anger as council officials recommend approval of King’s Lynn school expansion plan

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A controversial £3 million plan to double the size of a Gaywood primary school should be approved later this week, planning officials have said.

Critics of the proposed expansion of St Martha’s Catholic Primary School, in Field Lane, have reacted angrily to the recommendation, accusing Norfolk County Council of not listening to their concerns.

But the authority maintains there is no viable alternative.

Eight new classrooms, a school hall, expanded kitchen and staff room, plus additional on-site car parking and sports facilities are included in the proposal, along with a dedicated, one way, drop-off area for parents on the grounds of the nearby Catholic Church of the Holy Family.

The scheme, if approved, would enable the school to accommodate two classes per year group, instead of the current one, doubling the number of pupils on the roll from 210 in 2013 to 420 by 2021.

A report to the committee shows pupil numbers have already begun to rise and are projected to go on rising by up to around 30 children per year before the figure of 420 is reached.

But local people are already unhappy about traffic problems in the area and fear the scheme will only make things worse.

More than 40 letters of objection and a petition against the proposal have been submitted to the council.

And resident Malcolm Chambers warned: “It will result in an injury or a death before people will take any notice.”

But the school says it is prepared to consider employing parking attendants and claims its plans to offer more after school club will help to stagger departures at the end of the day.

And Tom McCabe, the county council’s interim director of community and environmental services, reported that any increase in traffic around the site would be “limited.”

The council’s children’s services department, which is jointly seeking permission for the expansion with the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia, also maintains the current plan will cost less than half of the cash that would be needed to build a new school elsewhere.

They say that, though other schools have been expanded, extra places are still needed in Gaywood and the former Alderman Jackson school site, which has been proposed as an alternative, is too small.

Mr McCabe concluded there was no reason why the scheme should not be approved, adding: “The applicant has concluded that this site is the only realistically available, deliverable and suitable site. There is no evidence to the contrary.”

But North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham dismissed that as “absolute nonsense”, arguing that schools in South Lynn, West Lynn and North Lynn could all be expanded.

He urged the authority to go back to the drawing board and said the recommendation of approval showed officials had not taken local people’s concerns into account.

He said: “It’s just like the incinerator. Norwich knows best.

“The county council has got to listen. Nobody has any confidence in the county planning system at all.”

The plan will be considered at a meeting in Norwich this Friday, January 9.