Fight to stop homes at school fails as go-ahead given for development
PUBLISHED: 16:34 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 17:21 18 May 2017
Sarah Lucy brown
An education charity has won the right to relocate the pre-prep department of an independent school – leaving the vacant space available for 32 new homes.
Suffolk Coastal’s planning committee backed the Seckford Foundation’s plans to pay for £5million of improvements at prep-school, The Abbey, with money from developing Queen’s House – on the grounds of Woodbridge School.
The application returned to councillors after being deferred for more information on parking, pedestrian access, the height of buildings and how the trust planned to fund improvements.
Concerns had been raised over the cost of the project – proposed as ‘enabling development’, with wider public benefits argued to outweigh a need to include affordable housing.
Wendy Evans-Hendrick, trustee of the Seckford Foundation, which employs 364 staff and has a wage bill of £9.9m, said the relocation of Queen’s House would result in income from the vacant site’s sale being used to fund the trust’s charitable objectives.
Queen’s House can now be partly converted and partly demolished for housing. Homes will also be built on the site of a 47-space car park, and in place of a groundsman’s hut.
Pupils will be relocated to The Abbey, where further plans were also given the go-ahead for a new activity hall and astroturf sports pitch, as well as refurbishment of buildings and classrooms.
On behalf of local objectors, James Neal said only one of five outstanding issues had been addressed – pedestrian access.
He called drawings for the project “misleading and inaccurate”, and said the introduction of 16 new overflow car spaces on the senior school grounds had “fudged” the issue of parking on the application site.
Mr Neal was chided by councillors for suggesting planning case officer Liz Beighton – a former Woodbridge School pupil – had forgotten to “do her homework” or seek proper answers to questions raised.
Neil Tetley, headmaster of Woodbridge School, said: “The project will enable us to bring pupils from Queen’s House and The Abbey together on one site from September 2018, offering an enhanced educational experience for all pupils from nursery to Year Six. The addition of a nursery will mean children can join Woodbridge School from age three.”
David Cresswell, partner at construction and property consultants Ingleton Wood, which has been supporting Woodbridge School on the project, said: “We are delighted that the proposals have been given the green light by the planning committee. We have worked with the foundation for the last two years to secure this result, which will benefit the pupils at the school and the wider community of Woodbridge.”