It looks like controversial plans to build two new schools in Rugby are going ahead.
Construction work could soon begin after members of Warwickshire County Council’s Regulatory Committee agreed to key elements of the planning application to build two schools on the site.
Plans to build a three-storey secondary school and an additional special education needs school were given the green light back in December but certain aspects of the design remained unresolved. These related to car parking, the multi-use games areas (MUGAs) and landscaping.
Dozens of nearby residents attended Monday’s meeting at Shire Hall along with staff from Rugby Free School which will be part of the development.
And they heard Warwickshire County Council’s principal planner Ian Grace explain that there had to be a level of compromise.
He said: “The depressing truth about the British planning system is that although it strives to achieve the best, it is often obliged to accept less than that. The test is not ‘is this scheme the best it could be?’ but ‘is it acceptable?’
“I agree that this advice will not be popular and it’s not popular with a lot of planning officers but that’s the way the system works.”
He added that with the applicant’s calculation that there will be 66 classrooms in the new secondary school, the minimum suggested number of car parking spaces was 132 but just 129 had been allocated.
Mr Grace said: “The applicant has explained the logic and that logic has been accepted by the highway authority and it is also close to the maximum stated. So my advice to the committee is that the parking standard is acceptable.”
With regard to the MUGAs, he added that there had been objections from Rugby Borough Council’s environmental health officers relating to the noise generated and how close they were to houses in Fawsley Leys.
A revised plan reduced the number of MUGAs from four to three and doubled the distance between them and the neighbouring properties. A special timber fence will also be put between the homes and the games areas to reduce the noise. Those measures had prompted the environmental health officers to remove their objection.
Mr Grace added that the new landscaping plan had also been put forward but this would soften the impact rather than hide a building of such size and scale.
A number of letters and reports objecting to the issues of car parking, MUGAs and landscaping were distributed to councillors and four people including Rugby Borough Cllr Bill Lewis spoke against the scheme. Christine Green, headteacher at Rugby Free School, spoke in favour of the plan and the project’s agent and acoustic consultant also addressed the meeting.
Cllr Adrian Warwick (Con Fosse) said: “Any school should be at the heart of the community and I think this has been a very difficult process for all involved. However, the principle of the school is established.”
And Cllr Mark Cargill (Con Alcester) added that councillors were only looking at the three matters that had been deferred.
He said: “We deferred for further information. I believe that information has now come and I believe this committee has enough information to make a decision. I am comfortable with what has been provided.”
Cllr Alan Webb (Labour Benn) added: “Most schools are affected by vehicular movement and most schools are affected by noise. We have spent a lot of time addressing these in terms of this application and we probably can’t do much more with it.”
Councillors voted in favour of approving reserved matters for the development of the two schools and the demolition of the former Rokeby Infant School.