Monday, 14 June 2021

School will get bigger playing field, says head

THE headteacher of Benson Primary School has reassured villagers that it will still have use of a good-sized playing field following its expansion.

Helen Crolla spoke with visitors at a consultation event to discuss plans to build a new three-classroom block on Monday last week.

This would be placed on part of the playing field adjacent to the current car park and incorporate a hard play area.

But Cala Homes, which has planning permission to build 241 homes on land north of Littleworth Road nearby, has already said it will provide a sports field as part of that development.

Mrs Crolla said: “I told visitors that I’m very keen that the sports field is of good quality and has a building on it for PE equipment and toilet facilities and they honour that.

“For our sports days and bigger tournaments, we will need that bigger space.”

The school would still be able to use its existing outdoor space for break times.

Mrs Crolla, school governors and members of the Benson Church of England Voluntary School Trust have discussed the plans with their project manager for months.

In November Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, conducted a feasibility study of the site. Drilling took place to test the soil beneath the playing field, and the car park, which belongs to the trust.

The consultation event was the first chance for the public to view the plans and give their views prior to a formal consultation in September. About 40 people attended.

Mrs Crolla said: “There was a variety of opinions — understandable concerns about change when Benson is already facing a lot of change but any changes that are put in place are done so with the safety of current and future children in mind.

“I think people were positive that it will provide people moving into the village with school places.

“People like some of the design, they like the fact there will be glass looking out over the field for the children in the new classrooms.”

David Walsh, head of general works at contractor Kier, said the three-classroom extension would mirror the design of the existing main school block.

He said: “The idea is keep it in keeping with the rest of the school as designed. Each classroom is normally around 60 sq m and that’s standard. They are normally looking for 30 in a classroom so that should increase the school by 90 pupils.

“Oxfordshire County Council’s education department are looking at what’s being built and trying to determine from that how many additional spaces the school is going to need. The idea is to match the future need of the housing that’s going in.”

Mr Walsh said Kier, which was appointed in April, hoped to start work in December with a completion date of August 30 next year ready for the start of the school year in September 2019.

Three potential access points are being considered for workmen entering and exiting the site, with all three off Oxford Road.

The first is via a gate next to the village’s youth hall, the second by creating an access off Oxford Road, adjacent to the school’s playing field, and the third is to use the existing access.

Mrs Crolla believes the second option will be the safest for the children on site and keep large vehicles away from the youngsters.

The plans also include the potential for a second phase of expansion and extra parking space. This would be another building adjacent to the proposed new block but Mr Walsh said this may or may not be needed.

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