Councillors approve extension for Wellingborough school

Ruskin Junior School has applied to Wellingborough Council to extend the existing junior school
Ruskin Junior School has applied to Wellingborough Council to extend the existing junior school

A school has been given planning permission for an extension despite objections to a new access road as part of the scheme.

Ruskin Junior School in Wellingborough applied to Wellingborough Council to extend the existing junior school.

The extension is for new classrooms complete with internal remodelling of the existing school and creation of a new entrance and dropping-off area leading from Shakespeare Road.

A report prepared for members of the council’s planning committee to consider said the school plans to have a phased intake of an additional 150 pupils and 12 members of staff over the next four years.

This would add to the 233 pupils and 40 staff members already on the school roll.

The two-storey extension block would help cater for the increase in numbers, including six more classrooms, library and toilet blocks.

While the extension plans were widely regarded as positive, some concerns had been raised ahead of the meeting about the proposed new access road.

The plans said the existing car park and entrance off Ruskin Avenue would be retained and for this to be reserved for visitors only.

A new vehicular and pedestrian access was then proposed for off Shakespeare Road, leading into an on-site drop-off area for children and a new car park with 40 bays.

A resident of Shakespeare Road who spoke at last week’s meeting raised a number of concerns about the access, including about the points at which vehicles would be going in and out of the school in that road.

She said Shakespeare Road was used as a ‘rat run’ by speeding motorists, and added: “There’s going to be a child hurt where people are racing up and down Shakespeare Road.”

In acknowledgement of the need for more school places, she said: “We accept schools have to be built, we accept there are more people in the area, but we can’t accept that a life could be lost or somebody injured for life through people speeding up and down Shakespeare Road.”

As councillors debated the plans, Cllr Martin Griffiths said the issue of dropping off and picking children up from school can be difficult.

He said the school is increasing in size and the staff need somewhere to park and while some pupils will walk to school, there will also be others coming by car.

While he admitted it wasn’t an ideal solution, he said: “I believe this will be a great improvement on what we have at the moment.”

Cllr Mark Hollyman, who told his colleagues he was a former pupil of the school, said: “In principal I like the scheme, I think it’s an improvement on the status quo and it’s been very well thought out but you can’t be too careful around areas where children may do things that they are not supposed to, being children, and we have to go that extra mile to ensure that we think for them so that they don’t become the victims of a tragic accident.”

Cllr Tim Maguire said: “I think the school is trying its best to get this problem solved with the second access into the school.

“I am of a mind to go in favour of the planning application but I don’t know if we can put a condition in that the school put forward some more traffic-calming measures in the area.”

Cllr Andrew Scarborough, who said the access part of the application rather than the extension was causing concern in the Queensway ward ahead of the meeting, spoke and said: “I think it’s dreadful.

“I think this is an accident waiting to happen whatever traffic-calming measures we try to put in place.”

As councillors considered the pros and cons, Cllr Malcolm Waters told the committee that as part of the National Planning Policy Framework, there were no grounds for rejecting the application.

He said: “We are never going to get a perfect solution.

“We have got to find something like 10,000 new school places in the next 12 months.

“It’s a difficult one, I appreciate everyone’s concerns about it, it’s a huge problem.”

Despite the resident’s representation and concern from some councillors about the new access road, the plans were approved by six votes to two last Wednesday.