School extension plans in Whittlesey raise fears over children's safety and increase in traffic

Objections to school extension in Whittlesey due to traffic and safety concerns. Picture: KIER

Objections to school extension in Whittlesey due to traffic and safety concerns. Picture: KIER

Archant

Plans to extend a school in Whittlesey to triple the number of pupils, add eight extra classrooms including a new nursery, main hall, entrance and play area - have caused controversy over safety concerns and an increase in traffic.

New Road Primary School will see pupils rise from 105 to 420 with 15 extra full-time staff and 36 new parking spaces.

The Manor Centre car park which has 102 parking spaces was also proposed as a ‘park and stride’ scheme for staff and parents to walk to the school.

However, residents and councillors have labelled plans as “traffic chaos” with fears that a child’s life could be “seriously put at risk”.

Whittlesey Town Council – who has lodged an objection to the application on “transport issues” - said that they have asked for land next to the school to be surveyed to be used as a drop-off point to ease congestion.

Councillor Chris Boden, who is a town, district and county councillor, said: “It is undeniable that a massive increase in pupil numbers at this school will increase the number of cars driven by parents or carers each day to drop-off or pick up pupils.

“Ever since this scheme was first mooted, we’ve asked for the traffic issues to be addressed seriously, but they haven’t been.

“That is why local residents and the town council are objecting to a planning application for a school extension that we all actually want.

“These plans as they currently stand could seriously put the life of a child at risk given the traffic chaos.

“All of the substantive objections to the planning application are to do with traffic and access - most specifically pupil drop-offs and collections by parents.”

A voluntary exclusion zone of 400m was also proposed by highways bosses to stop parents “abusing” parking on New Road.

However, it was decided that this could not be used as a “key approach to mitigate the impact” as it was “not enforceable”.

Councillor Alan Bristow, of Whittlesey Town Council, added: “We ask that the planning application is accompanied by the provision of a car park at the side of the school grounds, which can be used by parents and guardians of children requiring to travel by private cars to school due to the long distances from their homes.”

Plans were submitted by Cambridgeshire County Council in July last year in a bid to create an “excellent space for teaching and learning”.

Rikki Parsons, highways development manager, said: “The increase in vehicular activity warrants some form of improvement in the way of drop off and parking areas to facilitate and mitigate the development impact.

“Barriers will need to be installed at the kerb edge for the pedestrian accesses to prevent pedestrians from conflicting with motor vehicles on New Road.

“The pedestrian access indivisibility should also be improved.”

The existing school consists of single-storey flat roofs with a temporary mobile classroom for pre-school located on the car park with a play area.

The new main entrance is designed to be more “prominent and approachable” from New Road.

In a design and access statement, submitted as part of the application from Kier Group, it stated: “The teaching spaces benefit from generous natural daylight and views out. These contribute to improved concentration and well-being.

“In addition to excellent teaching spaces the buildings will provide a host of other spaces and user benefits which support the main teaching function of the building and will contribute to the pleasure of using it.”

The application has been extended until January 31 for any changes to be considered, before it will be discussed at a planning committee meeting.

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