Gayton residents take legal advice over school proposal

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Residents opposing plans for a new school in their village have taken legal advice in their bid to halt the scheme.

The move has been revealed ahead of a crucial meeting next week where community leaders in Gayton are expected to set out their position on the proposal.

Earlier this month, Norfolk County Council lodged a formal application to build a new, 210-place school on land at the junction of Back Street and Winch Road.

County planning officials maintain the site is the best available for the scheme to replace the village’s existing school, which they say is not fit for purpose.

But objectors held an open forum at the village’s Jubilee Hall on Saturday during the authority’s consultion period on the plan.

And, during the session, they revealed they had appointed a Cambridgeshire legal firm to represent them.

The campaigners insist they support the idea of a new school for the village, but argue the current site is inadequate, because of concerns over traffic, parking and flood risk.

In his letter to the county council, resident Ronald Simmons accused highways officials of “ignoring” their concerns.

He said: “I object to their cavalier attitude, riding roughshod over residents’ views.”

Another resident, Sarah Petch, said Anglian Water engineers had visited her property five times already this year, because of drainage and sewage problems.

She said: “Without a massive upgrade (of the system), there’s no way they can do this.”

They also fear that, with plans for almost 100 new homes approved last month alone and the prospect of more to come, the school will prove to be too small.

And they claim that officials have said they will put mobile classrooms on the new site, similar to those in place at the current school, if additional places are required.

Geoff Gibling, one of the leading figures in the campaign against the proposal, said: “They’re spending £4.5 million and they’re no further forward.”

But documents submitted as part of the application insist several other sites had also been assessed before being ruled out.

They added: “The proposed application site was identified as the most suitable site, albeit this lies outside the defined built-up limit for the village and within a flood risk area.

“It is clear there are no other achievable or deliverable sites within the existing built-up boundary to meet the client’s requirements.”

The authority claims assessments it has commissioned show flood risks are not as severe as have been suggested.

It also argues that additional traffic in the area can be accommodated through proposed road improvement measures and a revised school travel plan.

An extraordinary parish council meeting is due to be held at the village’s Jubilee Hall this Monday, May 23, from 7.30pm.