Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Playing fields would have to move to fund school extension

AN extension to Benson Primary School could be built due to the prospect of hundreds

AN extension to Benson Primary School could be built due to the prospect of hundreds of new homes in the village.

But plans to build on the school playing fields have already been met with opposition from Benson Parish Council due to an issue with the  ownership.

Graeme Dodd wants to build hundreds of homes on farmland north of Littleworth Road.

He was granted planning consent for 159 homes following a public inquiry last summer and has applied for permission for another 241 properties on the same site.

His architect WestWaddy has suggested using the playing fields at the back of the Oxford Road school, south of Littleworth Road.

This would enable the school to accept a large intake each year.

The company says Oxfordshire County Council has confirmed that the extension could be accommodated on the existing playing fields subject to them being replaced. It is proposing to include new playing fields as part of the housing development and says the county council has indicated that a “remote” site would be acceptable, subject to a number of criteria being met.

WestWaddy says the new fields would be accessible by both pedestrians and vehicles via a route off Littleworth Road, which it is proposing to make two-way, as well as from within the new development.

A pedestrian crossing would be created on Littleworth Road.

WestWaddy says: “The crossing provides an appropriate safe crossing for pupils walking between Benson Primary School and the proposed replacement playing field.

“The proposed replacement playing field will be secured and separated from the wider public open space by appropriate fencing, ensuring it’s used solely by Benson Primary School.”

The parish council says the current playing fields are owned by church trustees of the Diocese of Oxford and not by WestWaddy or the county council.

It adds: “Unless their permission has been obtained to build on this land, which members doubt, the proposed extension to the school will not be feasible.”

Council vice-chairman Jon Fowler said: “WestWaddy seems to be making an assumption that the school playing fields could be used to build an extension to the school but they don’t own the land.”

Helen Crolla, the school’s headteacher, said: “The governors and I are continuing to work with the local authority representatives when forming responses to the suggestions within developer plans.

“Our highest priority is the health and safety of all children. This uncertainty means that our outdoor space, while requiring updating, needs careful thought.

“I am working with companies and the Friends of Benson School to explore ways of improving the barked area to improve the play space.”

WestWaddy’s proposals have been criticised by residents, who say the village infrastructure couldn’t cope.

The company insists the development would help South Oxfordshire District Council meet housing needs.

The Littleworth Road schemes are one of several proposed housing developments for the village.

Archstone, which represents the owners of a site between the A4074 and St Helen’s Avenue, is to meet the parish council to discuss its proposals for a mixture of starter, affordable and family homes as well as sheltered accommodation for older people.

Developer Gladman has distributed a leaflet to residents outlining its plans for 150 homes on neighbouring land.

Meanwhile, the council  is in the process of producing a neighbourhood plan designed to give the community more say over new  developments. 

Oxfordshire County Council did notrespond to a request for comment.

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