PLANS for a brand new primary school, nursery and community centre in north Wokingham were put on hold by the council’s planning committee last week.
Wokingham Borough Council’s deputy leader John Kaiser branded the plans as not living up to the council’s ‘best practice’ by coming up short of the Department for Education’s (DfE) outdoor space requirement by nine per cent, and questioned why the school was being developed for a two-form entry when only a one-form entry was needed in the area.
Planning officers argued that the school, which is due to be built at the Matthewsgreen development, would be ‘future-proofed’ for expansion if the decision to allow for a two-form entry were granted now.
But they also warned that the school would not be given any more space by the developers, regardless of whether it was granted as a one- or a two-form entry.
Speaking at the meeting on Wednesday, December 13, Cllr Kaiser said: “We need to have a school that meets our best practice, and I would much rather approve this as a one-form entry and future-proof a school [on a larger site] elsewhere.”
Concerns were raised by councillors over the size of the school’s car park, with a section marked off for staff and an area dedicated for parents to drop off their children, and the size of a playing area, which fell marginally short of the DfE’s requirements.
Councillors argued that the space would not be big enough for the amount of pupils if it were a two-form entry school.
Cllr Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey said: “In an ideal world parents would walk their children to school. But when both parents work and they have to get the children to school on their way to work, with all the transport studies in the world, people will still drive their children to school.”
She also argued that not enough families are moving into the development to warrant a two-form entry, adding: “From what I have heard, the houses are not selling quick enough. They families are not moving in, which means we will not have enough children to fill this school.”
Cllr Angus Ross proposed to defer the decision, which was seconded by Cllr Shepherd-DuBey.