School simply won’t open

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A religious school will not open, councillors have said.

Central Beds Councillors on the development management committee turned down a planning application for a school on the former Simply Oak site.

The Plymouth Brethren had hoped to open a school in the location, which is on Potton Road, just outside Biggleswade.

The school would have taught seven to 18-year-olds.

The council’s planning officers had recommended the application for approval but councillors refused it on the grounds that it is an unsustainable location.

Prior to the meeting the Highways Agency wrote: “There is no technical highway reason to oppose the development in terms of vehicle access arrangements and the ability to provide an appropriate level of on-site vehicle parking and manoeuvring area, together with provision for cycle storage.

“However, being remote from any area of population, without sustainable transport links the site is far from ideal.”

The applicant, Ermine Education Trust, stated that the vast majority of pupils would arrive via the school’s minibus service.

The council’s pre-meeting report stated: “It is recognised that the site is not in a sustainable location such that it would encourage children or staff to walk or cycle to school.

“The majority of pupils would not be from the immediate area. However, the means of shared transport operated by the applicants and proposed to use at this site would significantly reduce vehicle trips to the site.

“It is also relevant to consider that the current authorised use of the site as a retail premises with associated restaurant and adjacent workshop would itself have the potential to generate significant levels of traffic.”

The school would have to provide a comprehensive travel plan, the officers said.

The report continued: “The proposed change of use of the site to a school would support the rural economy whilst not having a negative impact on the character or appearance of the area.

“There would be no adverse impact on the amenity of the neighbouring property and is considered acceptable in terms of highway safety and sustainability given the existing use and the specific transportation arrangements proposed to be adopted by the applicant.”

Ermine Education Trust will have the option of appealing the decision.