Leighton school set for growth amid traffic fears

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The expansion of an oversubscribed middle school in Leighton Buzzard has moved a step closer, despite fears it could traffic problems in the town centre.

Central Beds Council’s Executive agreed on Tuesday to grant permission, subject to planning consent, to expand Leighton Middle School from a four-form to five-form entry school from September 2016. That would eventually take the capacity at the Church Square school from the current 480 to 600 pupils.

It follows a public consultation in which 92 per cent of respondents were in favour of the expansion.

Councillor Mark Versallion, Executive Member for Education and Skills, said that he was pleased that the proposal had attracted such support but also understood some concerns that were raised about the expansion potentially leading to increased traffic levels in the area.

He said: “This is an eminently worthy school which I know very well as resident of the area, and people living close by are lucky to have such a good school in their catchment area.

“However, it has been oversubscribed for a number of years and as a council we should be supporting popular and successful schools to expand where we need more places.

“I understand concerns about the potential traffic impact but a lot of time has been spent already to develop appropriate mitigations which will be submitted as part of the planning application alongside the school’s travel plan. These include having a school crossing patrol to manage children crossing the road from the Tesco car park.

“The school is within walking or cycling distance of new homes being built in the area and there is a bus service from Sandhills which stops outside the school.

Anne Thompson, headteacher at Leighton Middle School, said: “I am delighted that the Executive has approved the expansion of Leighton Middle School. We are a popular school and it is good to know that in future years more children will have the opportunity to be part of our happy school community.”

A final decision to grant planning permission for the proposed expansion scheme will be taken at a meeting of the council’s development management committee on November 11.