Updated strategy needed to cope with predict pupil boom in Leighton Buzzard

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A plan to cope with the anticipated rise in pupils at schools in Leighton Buzzard up to the year 2020 is having to being updated as forecasted numbers soar.

Central Beds Council is likely to have a shortage of middle and upper school places going forward as the Eastern development is built.

In the council’s school organisation plan 2015-2020 there are new lower and middle schools proposed for the site and Vandyke Upper is also set to be extended.

In recent times a second site for Greenleas Lower School opened on Sandhills creating 300 places, and 150 extra spaces were created at both Leedon and Clipstone Brook lower schools. Leighton Middle’s 120 extra places will be available in September.

But CBC has confirmed to the LBO that an updated 2015-2020 plan will be published in September as the authority looks for further solutions for the heightened predicted demands for middle and upper school places.

Over the five years of the original plan total pupil numbers in Central Beds are expected to rise by approximately 6,757, from about 38,700 pupils in 2015 to 45,457 pupils in 2020.

An extra 1,470 dwellings are likely to have been built in the Leighton-Linslade area during that period.

Of those 620 are lined up at the Eastern development known as Clipstone Park.

The scheme, which will eventually boast 2,500 properties, was granted outline permission in 2014, but CBC is still awaiting the detailed applications for the sites. The LBO understands this is likely to happen later this year, with building to start in 2017.

A council spokesman said: “We constantly review the need for school places across Central Bedfordshire to ensure that we have enough places to meet demand. This is reflected in the council creating 6,500 new places over a five-year period to 2017.

“Our five-year School Organisation Plan for 2015 to 2020 forecast a similar amount of places will again be needed. This is based on projected factors such as house building and population growth so is likely to change slightly, which is why we review it regularly.

“The latest forecast shows that extra upper school places may be needed in the Leighton Buzzard area from 2018 and more middle school places from 2019, and this will be reflected in an update of the plan which will come out in September.”

Central Bedfordshire Council had also been asked to review the catchment areas for lower schools in the south of the Leighton Buzzard by town and CBC councillor Amanda Dodwell.

Cllr Dodwell said: “I have asked for the council to look at the catchment schools allocated to Sandhills/Billington Park. The southern part of Sandhills has only one catchment school (Greenleas) and last year some of the children from that part of the estate were unable to get into the school on a straight line distance.

“The northern part of Sandhills has four catchment schools including Greenleas. Similarly, Billington Park has Stanbridge Lower as its catchment school but new housing is going on the RAF Stanbridge site and they will be nearer to Stanbridge Lower. I would like to preserve parents option of choosing a rural school and ensure that they are also given the option of a Leighton Buzzard school, either Clipstone or Leedon.”