Green light for Alnwick’s new high school

The existing Duchess's Community High School, Alnwick.
The existing Duchess's Community High School, Alnwick.

The long-awaited rebuilding of Alnwick’s new high school was given the go-ahead last night, but there are concerns about safe routes for pupils to get there.

The full application for the rebuild of the Duchess’s Community High School on a new site at Greensfield, to the south of the town, went before Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee yesterday, where it was approved unaninously.

Back in June, when we reported that the scheme to rebuild the school would be shifting into top gear in the following months, the hope was that the application would be submitted in August and signed off in November.

That schedule has been maintained so far and the hoped-for start date for construction is this month or January. That would mean a final handover of the new school in August 2016 for the start of the academic year that September.

Last night, Alnwick’s county councillors Heather Cairns and Gordon Castle both spoke in support of the application, but raised concerns about home-to-school travel.

Speaking to the Gazette after the meeting, Coun Cairns said: “I spoke specifically to represent the parents and children who live within three miles of the school to ask for safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists.

“I knew it couldn’t be a condition of the planning application, but asked for a working group to be set up to look at safe routes to school, reminding them that Shilbottle falls within that three-mile radius.

“The number of children going there is likely to increase with the new houses being built and if the two-tier system is brought in and no one seems to have looked at that yet.

“We have managed to get some provision for sixth-formers to park on site, but not enough.”

Coun Castle added: “I stressed that the improvements and upgrades should include a mandatory pedestrian controlled crossing point on South Road at a suitable point between the Royal Oaks Gardens exit and the back of the path to Sainsbury’s or the proposed new Aldi site.

“Monitoring the need for such a crossing had been accepted in respect of the Aldi application approved last year, but with the new high school, I argued that such a crossing was now essential.”