Secondary school expansion could cause 'traffic chaos' says Linslade councillor

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Plans to extend Fulbrook Middle School into a secondary approved, despite "failing" travel plans warning

Traffic chaos could be caused without a better travel plan for a school expansion project close to the Bedfordshire-Buckinghamshire border, a meeting heard.

Central Bedfordshire Council was accused of “failing” with its school travel plans by Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey.

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The local authority’s development management committee was considering its own project to expand Fulbrook Middle School in Woburn Sands.

Fulbrook Middle SchoolFulbrook Middle School
Fulbrook Middle School

Proposals were submitted for a two-storey detached teaching block and sports hall, and a multi-use informal play area.

The scheme includes a revamp of other buildings, extra parking and a new access on the council-owned site in Weathercock Lane, according to a report to the committee.

“The proposal is considered inappropriate development within the greenbelt, but the special circumstances put forward outweigh the harm,” said the report.

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Senior planning officer Lauren Rance told the committee: “The application seeks an extended school to cater for pupils aged nine to 16.

“It follows planning permission granted in December 2021 for a single-storey classroom block, a new sports hall and parking to allow it to convert from a middle to a secondary for pupils aged 11 to 16,” she explained.

“As some of the surrounding lower schools can’t convert to primary, it’s now intended for Fulbrook to become an extended secretary.

“It’s proposed the single-story teaching block will become a two-storey addition at the back of the school.

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“Other improvements are included, as well as more special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision and cycle storage space.

“The school would accommodate 120 pupils in years five and six to provide overall space for 720 pupils.

“A travel plan condition and staggered start times with neighbouring Swallowfield Primary School are included, along with park and stride options to reduce pressure on the highways network.”

The application will be referred to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities because of the amount of the extension in the greenbelt, she added.

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Councillor Victoria Harvey warned: “This council is failing on travel plans. This standard of travel plan isn’t good enough in the modern age. We’re going to have traffic chaos. Surely we could do much better?”

Ms Rance replied: “Park and stride had been considered at length. You’re looking at legal agreements with owners of suitable areas.

“We’ve considered a variety of parking areas around Woburn Sands, which are limited. It’s at the school’s discretion to manage the travel plan.

“If we don’t have some places off the highway, there would be more chaos on the highway network. But, if we provide too many, we want to avoid it becoming a car park. It’s a balancing act.”

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Executive member for sustainability and transformation and Conservative Stotfold and Langford councillor Steve Dixon said: “They’re our children, so we’ve that duty of care to encourage active travel.

“But we’ve a historical estate which isn’t ideally suited in many cases. We’re continuing to work on this. We’re looking at how we can work smarter with travel plans.”

The development was approved with nine votes in favour and one abstention.