An update on the current building project from the Headmaster:
I thought that it may be an appropriate time to update you on the building works that are being undertaken at school. Much of the work commissioned following the successful bid to the Condition Improvement Fund has now been completed; the entire programme is due to be completed before the end of term (and within budget!). A number of roofs, windows and doors have been replaced and the school is already becoming warmer and less draughty (this is particularly noticeable in the hall, which has also benefitted from significantly improved insulation in the roof). Unfortunately, little progress has been made recently in constructing the new block that is funded from the Selective Schools Expansion Fund.
As you may recall, in September we applied for planning permission to build a new block comprising a new larger dining room facility and kitchen, six large classrooms and additional toilets to meet the needs of our growing community. We also intend to upgrade our sixth form facilities to provide a new sixth form centre to allow our sixth form students a bright, airy space in which to study and relax. This new facility will be the largest investment in the school since the late 1960s, and only made possible by the successful bid to the Selective Schools Expansion Fund.
As part of the planning process, the local authority invited comments to be made about the application to inform any subsequent decision. We were extremely grateful for all of the supportive comments that were logged; there was overwhelming support for the proposal. By now, we had hoped to have “broken ground”, but I regret to inform you that the necessary planning permissions have not yet been granted.
Since September, our Architect, Planning Consultant and Transport Consultant, alongside the school have continued to work to resolve the issues that the Highways Officer, the Tree Officer and the Heritage Officer have raised to the Planning Officer. We have had a meeting with the Planning Officer, Highways Officer and the Tree Officer on site and looked at the issues raised at that time. Despite giving numerous reassurances, proposing additional planting to mitigate the loss of any existing trees, extending the provision of cycle racks and changing arrangements for parking, there still appear to be obstacles to the local authority granting planning permission. In the last few weeks the School have been advised that we may need to provide a fully signalised junction between Charminster Road, Court Road and East Way. The projected cost of doing so, places the whole project in jeopardy. A signalised junction has never (to our knowledge) been identified as a priority for the local authority (old or new), until now. It is difficult to understand why a projected small increase in the number of pedestrians walking towards or leaving the site warrants the action suggested. Anyone who has frequently used the junction will realise the chaos that full signalisation will cause – traffic will soon back up to the Five Ways roundabout, and joining Charminster Road from West Way will become a nightmare. Bus stops will also need to be relocated.
National planning guidance emphasises that the government attaches great importance to ensuring that a sufficient choice of school places are available to meet the needs of existing and new communities. It encourages Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to take a proactive, positive and collaborative approach to meeting this requirement, and to development that will widen choice in education. LPAs should therefore give great weight to the need to create, expand or alter schools; and work with schools (and their appointed architects) to identify and resolve key planning issues. Regrettably, this appears not to have been the case. This is even more remarkable given that the predecessor authority contributed £200k of capital funding to the expansion plans. Perhaps if the council were bearing the full cost of the expansion, the approach would be different. We feel that other schools within BCP are being supported by the new authority (such as Carter Community School), whereas we, perhaps because we are a selective school, are being treated less favourably.
Such delays are not only costly, but have meant that the intended further expansion of the school (from September 2021) has had to be postponed indefinitely, as we are unable to expand further without the surety of have extended accommodation. It may well be that we have to consider a reduction in the numbers admitted from September 2022 (to 150) until our extended accommodation is available. We fear that if planning permission is not granted in the near future the grant that we have been awarded (in total worth nearly £5m to the local economy) will be withdrawn. We have worked hard to draw our intake increasingly from the local area, enabling more pupils to walk or cycle to school. Ironically, if we had not changed our admissions policy to favour local children, the transport department would not be requiring the junction to be improved to accommodate additional pedestrians.
To try to secure the planning permission, we have submitted amended plans, showing how we are addressing the issues that have been raised (other than signalising the junction, which we feel is an unreasonable condition). Consequently, the local authority are undertaking a further consultation. We would be grateful if all parents were to make their thoughts known (even if you responded to the previous consultation). We hope that you will feel able to support our application and make clear your thoughts about the reasonableness of the signalised junction being made a pre-condition of approval. Comments about are application may be made through the local authority’s website https://online.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/services/planningapplicationcomments/
The closing date for comments is Sunday 8th March. The planning application number is 7-2019-1260-AY, and our address is Bournemouth School, East Way, Bournemouth, BH8 9PY.
We would be happy to respond to any queries that you may have about the project.