Friday, 12 August 2022

Growing school refused consent for new car park

AN expanding school has been refused planning permission for a new car park.

Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning wanted to create 41 bays, including two disabled spaces, on Sonning Field, which is to the east of the main school at Holme Park.

The field is currently used by the school for sport and has been used intermittently for parking since 2005.

But Wokingham Borough Council refused the plans, saying the gravel car park would have an “unacceptable urbanising impact” on the Sonning conservation area and would erode the rural character of the area.

The decision came just weeks after the school was given permission to expand so it can have 70 more students.

In a planning statement, the school said that since it opened at Holme Park 70 years ago, there has been “an inevitable need for sensitive improvement and renewal of campus infrastructure, including the replacement of existing buildings and the provision of ancillary facilities including car parking”.

It said the car park would relieve congestion in Sonning Lane, where many students park during the school day, and its location would not result in excessive encroachment into the countryside.

The application was supported by several residents.

Barton and Elizabeth Guthrie, of Pearson Court, said: “Sonning’s traffic problems are legendary.... and Reading Blue Coat School is to be applauded for taking the initiative of coming up with an exceptionally feasible, responsible and well-considered plan.”

Karen Pinnock, a parent, said: “The sooner the better and safer for everyone concerned that this car park is built.”

Sonning Parish Council opposed the application, saying the field was a designated wildlife site

.It said the development would lead to traffic problems on the access road, which is used by residents and users of a tennis court, and an extra 41 vehicles would increase congestion in the village.

David and Jane McIlroy, of High Street, Sonning, suggested that the school should use up to 100 spaces at the nearby rugby club.

The borough council said the school had not provided any information about how cars would enter and leave the site safely or about barriers and signs. It also said the car park would encourage more students to drive to school.

The school currently has 758 students but says it is expecting this number to rise as more children are accepting offers to study and fewer are leaving before sixth form. Residents claimed the increase would exacerbate the traffic problems in Sonning Lane, which is used by drivers travelling through the village to and from Caversham and Henley.

John Fisher said: “Five days a week from 8/8.30am to 5/5.30pm it is block-parked with students. This would perhaps be more acceptable if the highway was capable of accommodating this burden but plainly Sonning Lane was not designed for such purpose.

“It is hazardous, dangerous and impractical for Sonning Lane to operate as a two-lane highway five days a week.

“During off-peak time it can be very tiresome and dangerous to overtake a line of parked cars, however during peak times it is complete mayhem. The present scenario is unacceptable to everyone.”

The Sonning and Sonning Eye Society said the problem of students’ cars should be resolved before any increase in numbers.

Sonning Parish Council said the number of students parking in the road had become “unacceptable”.

The school said that since a new classroom block was built in 2012, extra on-site parking and a drop-off and pick-up lane had been added, two new bus routes had been introduced and parents and students had been discouraged from parking in Sonning Lane.

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