Transport was the only concern as the planning application to extend Alnwick’s new school, so it can become an 11-to-18 secondary school, was given the go-ahead.
The proposals, which will essentially add a fourth spur, or finger, to the spine of the building currently under construction at Greensfield, were unanimously approved by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday.
At the meeting, Peter Reid, from Alnwick Civic Society, highlighted concerns about the ‘inadequate and unrealistic’ transport plans for pupils getting to the new school. “None of us knows the full impact these changes will have on the town,” he added.
Graham Fairs, highways development manager at the council, agreed and said the plan needs to be ‘fundamentally updated’. He said: “There’s a lot of information that needs to be provided before we are satisfied these problems can be overcome.”
A condition of the approval is that further studies and assessments are carried out before the new school can be used.
The extension will expand the school from a capacity of 1,115 pupils to 1,615, made necessary by the decision to switch to a two-tier structure in the Alnwick Partnership.
The proposal allows for construction of the extension while the rest of the new school remains in operation.
It would need to be ready by September 2017 for the arrival of Years 7 and 8 following the closure of the four middle schools – three in Alnwick and one in Seahouses.
Coun Dougie Watkin described it as a ‘downright disgrace’ that inadequate provision has been made for sixth formers to park, bearing in mind that teenagers must now be in education, training or work up to the age of 18 and that the council has removed free transport for post-16 students.
Coun Richard Dodd said: “We won’t know until the gates of the school are open. What we have to be is as reactive and receptive as possible. Whatever happens, some parents and pupils will still want to park in the classrooms.”