getSurrey News reports:
Ludicrous’ proposals to build a number of new schools in the Guildford area have been dismissed as poorly planned and ‘panicked’ additions to the draft local plan.
Sites have been identified in Salt Box Road, Guildford, and West Clandon for new secondary schools, which are an important addition to Guildford Borough’s draft local plan , which sets out a blueprint for the development of the town and surrounding area until 2031.
Critics have focused the majority of their concerns on the plan’s housing targets, with 13,000 new homes proposed within its life span.
However, the schools are now raising major concerns among neighbours living by the considered sites, who believe they are unreasonable for development.
Detractors have claimed the schools have been included late in the draft plan as planners aim to head off concerns that the strategy was not providing enough education provision to support 625 new homes being built each year.
Paul Kassell, who lives on Grange Road, which is suggested for the site of a new five-form-entry secondary school, said the proposals dashed any hope of the plan ‘obtaining a shred of credibility’.
He claimed the school represented a ‘last-minute inclusion’ rushed into the plan with ‘little or no thought’.
“It’s ludicrous and it’s absolutely the wrong place,” he said. “There is no pavement on Salt Box Road which is packed with cars most mornings, while a bridge to the east doesn’t allow double decker buses.”
He added: “Any additional school traffic will be tempted to cut through Grange Road, where cars and lorries already share the pavement with pupils walking to local schools. Residents can be forgiven for believing that the site was selected in a game of pin the tail on Worplesdon.”
Mr Kassell also raised concerns that the site was situated on the edge of Whitmoor Common, an area protected by European Law.
“It will be the duty of Surrey County Council, as developers, to prove that the location of the school will not impact the wildlife on this common.
“They have a lot of homes on this plan and we know that it has to appear viable in front of the planning inspectors. So that must be why these school sites are being put in these ridiculous places.”
Although the borough council stresses that the proposals are no guarantee that any development will take place, the county council is facing a shortfall of school places and would be expected to snap up any opportunities.
West Clandon resident Tim Anderson said he and his neighbours were shocked by the appearance of a new school in the proposals for the site to the north of Meadowlands and south of Clandon railway station.
He said: “We saw the first version of the draft local plan and it looked like there would be building, but little chance that that area would be developed. Then on the eve of the second iteration of the draft, this school got dropped out of the blue and it was just a huge shock.
“The incredible thing is that no one will explain how the decision was made. We can’t find out who made the decisions. We have asked the council and are yet to get a good answer.
“Suddenly these schools appear and even the county councillor for the area said he had no idea about it.”
Mr Anderson said the roads around the proposed site lacked the capacity to cope with a new school as they already struggle with traffic congestion.
“A school is major development which will completely transform the area where people live,” he said. “So now we have all of these new houses blighting the area and new development proposals being dropped on us with absolutely no regard being given to how sensible these suggestions are. These schools seem like a panicked decision. They haven’t been thought through but could have major repercussions.”
Councillor Monika Juneja said the school sites had been included in the plan following joint work with the education authority, Surrey County Council.
She added: “There is a requirement for schools and we have taken a view as to where the schools should be located. Nothing is set in stone in this plan. We have to consult with our partners.
“But we might have to re-think these sites as SCC might say it is not suitable due to transport or other, better sites may come up. There may well be other sites that are equally suitable that are not in the draft plan at this stage. We need to provide schools. If not there, then where should we put them?”