Residents’ fears over plans to double size of King’s Lynn school

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Residents opposing an extension to double the intake of pupils at a West Norfolk school say they fear extra traffic will put children at “serious risk.”

Homeowners say the roads surrounding St Martha’s Catholic Primary School in Gaywood are already “at breaking point” during school drop-off and collection time, and believe extra pressure will end up with a child being killed.

A petition against the proposals has now been drawn up, and a public meeting to discuss the issues is being held at the Wildfowler pub, Gayton Road, at 8pm on Tuesday.

But county education officials say the extra places are needed and insist the plans do address traffic issues in the area.

Plans have been submitted to extend the school in Field Lane so that it can increase its pupil numbers from 210 to 420 by September 2016.

The application, from Norfolk County Council and the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia, seeks permission for eight new classrooms, a new school hall, staff room, group rooms, ancillary accommodation and an extended kitchen and library.

On the outside, there would be a new hard sports pitch and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA), a new car park accessed directly from Field Lane, plus a drop-off area with a walkway to the school.

The council and Diocese say the proposal would meet the area’s need for more school places, particularly Catholic school places, arising from new and future housing and an increase in the number of Catholic children as a result of immigration.

But residents fear the extra traffic the extension would cause would put schoolchildren and the local community as risk.

Malcolm Chambers, of Field End Close, said the residential area surrounding the school, and also Gaywood Community Primary School, is already gridlocked twice a day.

He said: “Parents parked on either side of the road completely halt the flow of traffic and you can’t get through, and it will only get worse if this goes ahead. Our concern is what if an emergency vehicle needs to get through?

“Unfortunately with Britain, someone will have to get seriously injured, or killed, before anyone listens.”

But Chris Hey, head of place planning and organisation in Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department, said the council and Diocese were aware of the traffic problem, which he insisted had formed a key part of the development of the proposal.

“The proposed drop-off area is a significant attempt to balance the issues of traffic on Field Lane, with a planning requirement not to encourage parents to use cars to bring their children to school, and has been developed in consultation with the Highways authority.

“The school has also indicated its commitment to manage this arrangement over the longer-term by employing a member of staff to do this.”

Mr Hey also pointed out that the application includes a proposal to provide an extra 40 on-site parking spaces for staff, increasing the total to 52, with three disabled spaces provided.