Minister will have final say on school expansion plans

Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles

Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

A PRIMARY school’s plan to expand by building on its sports field will go all the way to the top for a final decision.

An objection by Sport England to the Wolvercote Primary School plans means that a Government minister will have the final say, even if it is approved by county councillors.

The school wants a new building of two classrooms, toilets, a cloakroom and office on the field to cope with rising pupil numbers.

The playing field would be replaced with a multi-use games area (MUGA) on land previously used for grass pitches and a running track.

Sport England planning manager Raymond Cole said the 36.6m by 24.3m MUGA is less than the 37m by 27m recommended by the Football Association.

But the playing field could take a 55m by 37m football pitch or two rounders pitches with a 60m running straight, he said.

He added: “Therefore, the proposed MUGA will not deliver sufficient benefit to the development of sport as to outweigh the detriment caused by the loss of this part of the playing field.”

Oxfordshire County Council has applied for the expansion and wants work completed by the end of next year.

Council deputy director for environment and economy Bev Hindle said: “The development is required to allow the school to accommodate additional pupils.

“It is considered that the layout and design is acceptable.

“Whilst I note the objection raised by Sport England, the school is the principal user of the playing field and has clearly taken the view that there would be overall benefits to the provision of education at the school site including outdoor recreation.”

The council wants to increase the school’s annual intake from 30 pupils to 45 from September.

It has said it regularly has to turn about 36 pupils away from the school in First Turn each year.

The Sport England objection means the plans will have to be submitted to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles if approved by councillors on the county’s planning and regulation committee next Monday. He will then decide whether or not to intervene.

The council had to find 500 extra primary school places in 2012 and 20 schools have been identified for expansion by 2018, following a rise in the number of children being born in the county.

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