Parents 'ecstatic', protestors 'disappointed' as Rokeby schools plan approved - The Rugby Observer

Parents 'ecstatic', protestors 'disappointed' as Rokeby schools plan approved

Andy Morris 8th Aug, 2017 Updated: 9th Aug, 2017   0

A POPULAR public park is set to be paved over after Warwickshire County Council (WCC) approved a plan to build two new schools there.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) was given permission to build the permanent home of Rugby Free Secondary School (RFSS) and the new Rugby Free Special School on Rokeby Playing Fields.

Councillors voted by seven to two to give outline planning permission for the schools to be built on the field, adjacent to Anderson Avenue.

A county council spokesman said: “School planning officers at Warwickshire County Council welcome the decision of regulatory committee to approve two new schools on the Rokeby site in Rugby.

“Rugby is in real need of school places and these two proposed schools will add much needed capacity in the area.”

But the final decision may change, after an unknown objector requested the Secretary of State ‘call in’ the planning application to review the decision.

Borough Councillor Bill Lewis, who represents Rokeby and Overslade Ward and is a member of protest group Sustainable Hillside and Rokeby Education (SHARE), said he was very disappointed with WCC’s decision.

He said: “They did not take account of many residents’ concerns, including the safety of the access to the site and on the narrow estate roads in the vicinity. There is a very high probability this will result in traffic/pedestrian conflicts.

“Rokeby and Overslade already falls below the borough council’s open space standards by 25 hectares. The loss of three quarters of the Rokeby Playing Fields will further reduce the available green open space.”

He said he had ‘great sympathy’ for the children currently being taught at RFSS’s temporary site, the former Rokeby Infant School building in Anderson Avenue.

He said: “The principal reason for approval was due to the shortfall of secondary school places, which is mainly due to WCC Education and Learning’s lack of forward planning. This situation hardly seems fair or necessary for anyone concerned.”

But Donna McCrae, whose daughter started at RFSS last September, said she respected SHARE’s views but her child’s education was paramount.

She said: “Every objection to the plan has been addressed. The Highways Agency gave the go-ahead and it’s not as thought the whole field will be lost – a good percentage of it will remain.

“If this didn’t go ahead, there would be 140 children – not including this September’s intake – who would have to be shipped out of Rugby to go to school because there just aren’t enough school places. The decision had to be made – there is currently no alternative.

“We’re ecstatic the vote went in our favour and quietly confident the Secretary of State would have to have a very good reason to go above the council planning committee.

“For them not to go ahead now would be catastrophic – for the town and the children.”

A SHARE spokeswoman said their focus would now move to pursuing their application for town green status for Rokeby Playing Fields.

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