St Edmundbury Borough Council approves plans for new Abbeygate Sixth Form College in Bury St Edmunds
A council has approved the plans for the new Abbeygate Sixth Form College by eight votes to four.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Development Control Committee debated the issue for an hour and a half this morning before reaching the decision, after councillors raised concerns about unnecessary parking and traffic congestion in Newmarket Road and Western Way.
Cllr Sara Mildmay-White said: “This is a 20th century plan for a 21st century conundrum.
“To allow students to be able to drive to the school and park in a car park outside without having to pay is not a 21st century solution.
“To think that we can bring more and more cars into this town’s roads and car parks is in my opinion quite barmy.”
Cllr David Nettleton added that plans to widen parts of Western Way and Newmarket Road to cope with the increase in traffic will only 'make the problem worse'.
"If we try to speed cars through there will just be more congestion," he said.
"I think this is a complete disaster and we'll come to regret it if we approve it today."
Another concern raised was the loss of the current playing fields on the site and the effect this might have on the student’s health and wellbeing.
Paul Nightingale, a former PE teacher at King Edward VI School who objected to the plans, said: “There is no real mitigation for the loss of the playing fields.
“There’s huge public concern over children’s health and fitness levels these days and the opportunities to allow participation needs to be increased rather than reduced.”
But Cllr Julia Wakelam, who proposed that the council approve the plans, said the college would be 'what students in Bury St Edmunds deserve'.
"It provides different facilities and a lot of students benefit from the different atmosphere of a sixth form college," she said.
"It can help students feel more motivated than those who are in a normal upper school."
She added: "It's going to be more difficult for them to get a job in the future so we need to give them the best possible education we can."
Cllr Terry Clements, who seconded Cllr Wakelam's call to approve the plans, said: “This will benefit not just the sixth form but the college, the Abbeycroft centre and the school as well. I believe it’s a fantastic facility. Why shouldn’t West Suffolk have that?
“Let’s move forward and do the best we can for West Suffolk.”
The council approved plans to grant officers delegated authority to grant planning permission.
David Gartland, principal of Abbeygate, said: "We are absolutely delighted that St Edmundsbury Council have approved our plans to build a new, state of the art Abbeygate Sixth Form College. I’d like to thank everybody who has supported our vision so far.
"We are committed to investing in the young people of this region and to help in shaping their futures.
"Abbeygate will have a comprehensive curriculum offering in a specialist high specification building which will be fundamental in supporting all the fantastic students, teachers and support staff.
"We are excited for the future and will continue to work with all parents and young people who will be our first Abbeygate students closely over the next few months."