Sunday, 17 January 2021

School wants to expand with temporary buidings

THE secondary school in Watlington wants to expand and take another 150 pupils.

Icknield Community College in Love Lane is looking to build three new temporary units on part of its playing field.

This is to meet the demand for pupil places caused by new housing developments in its catchment area.

It would mean one extra entry form and the buildings would need to be ready for the start of the next academic year in September.

The college, which is part of the Acer Trust, currently has 720 students and the new buildings would enable this figure to rise to 870.

The three prefabricated buildings would be built at the back of the college near the boundary with Watlington Primary School.

The rounders pitches would have to be relocated.

Two of the buildings would have two classrooms each and the third would be used as an activity studio.

There would be storage space and toilets in all three units.

The school has applied to South Oxfordshire District Council for planning permission but only for seven years in case the proposed move of the school to the “new town” which could be built at Chalgrove Airfield goes ahead.

A design and access statement by architect Thinking Buildings, of Bloxham, says: “The need for expansion is to meet a demand for additional pupil places arising from recent residential development within the school catchment area. Oxfordshire County Council has asked Icknield Community College to expand by one form of entry through the use of temporary accommodation, required for September 2021.

“In the background there is a wider strategic proposal by the county council to relocate the college as part of the [proposed] large-scale development of Chalgrove Airfield.

“If the Chalgrove airfield development does not proceed, it is likely that the existing Icknield school site will instead be developed with a two form of entry expansion.

“The proposed layout provides flexibility to later develop a new- build two-form entry block to the north west of the existing school buildings between the temporary buildings and hard play area.”

Homes England, a government agency that owns the airfield, has applied to build 3,000 homes there, along with two primary schools, a secondary school, sixth-form college, shops, healthcare hub, community and leisure facilities and parks as well as 40,000 sqm of employment space.

Icknield admits students from Watlington, Benson, Chinnor and Chalgrove as well as Stokenchurch, even though that is in neighbouring Buckinghamshire.

Watlington Parish Council chairman Matt Reid told a meeting on Tuesday that under the plans the college’s numbers would get to a point where it would be allowed to open a sixth form.

He said: “If they stay that would be great and we could get a sixth form as well.”

In 2015 plans for a sixth form were scrapped.

Headteacher Mat Hunter said the school couldn’t guarantee student numbers as many had applied to other institutions, such The Henley College, to study A-levels.

It had hoped to take 30 sixth-form students in its first year and to have about 120 in the long term.

The parish council has said that the relocation of the college to Chalgrove would be a “significant” loss to Watlington as it currently provides employment for local people and contributes to the economy. It also provides facilities for community use.

In the summer Councillor Reid told a council meeting: “The community would have a massive hole in it if we lost Icknield.

“It’s the primary employer, it gives a real heart to the community and it forms an important buffer in terms of the relationship to Pryton.

“If Icknield Community College closes and they build a new school in Chalgrove what happens to the site? This is one of the big unknowns.”

Sport England has been consulted informally about the plans, specifically in relation to the new classrooms being built on playing fields.

Thinking Building ssays: “Sport England would require formal consultation as part of a planning application. The area of playing field being lost to the proposal has been used as training grids and rounders pitches.

“Sport England advised that any proposed buildings should not extend beyond a notional line parallel to the end of the existing multi-use games area.

“Restricted buildings behind this line will not have an impact on an existing running track or any other formal sports areas. The displaced rounders pitch can be relocated to an area north-east of the site.

“The additional temporary buildings are proposed in an area of playing field which is little used.”

The plans also include landscaping and 10 new parking spaces, taking the total number to 75.

A hedgehog house would be placed within the site to increase its ecological value and two bat boxes would be placed in suitable trees.

The proposed external lighting would be designed “sensitively” to minimise light spill and the potential impact on bats.

The statement concludes: “Due to the temporary nature of the requirement, prefabricated buildings have been proposed.

“They are single storey in nature and would not be visually prominent or probably visible from neighbouring housing. In context of the site scale, they are a minor addition.”

The district council is due to make a decision by January 19.

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