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Plans for new Abbeygate Sixth Form, in Bury St Edmunds, set to be approved

A 1,700-student sixth form college in Bury St Edmunds could win planning approval next week, despite concerns including loss of sporting facilities and traffic.

Plans for Abbeygate Sixth Form, off Beetons Way, will be discussed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s development control committee on Thursday.

The principal of the sixth form, which is due to open in September, said it was a ‘once-in-a-liftetime opportunity’ for a £32 million purpose-built facility. Students will be taught at the University of Suffolk, at West Suffolk College, until the new campus is ready.

Abbeygate Sixth Form College (5612593)
Abbeygate Sixth Form College (5612593)

The proposed C-shaped building would include two four-storey wings, assembly and sports halls and multi-use games area. The sixth form would be accessed from Beetons Way and a nearby replaced with traffic lights, while there would be 245 parking spaces and a minibus/coach turning area on site.

While the college and car park would obliterate parts of King Edward’s upper and lower fields, part of the scheme involves improving the remainder of the lower field and upgrading an existing all-weather pitch at the school.

The plans were submitted in April and have since been modified in response to concerns.

Suffolk Highways, Sport England and the county flood and water engineer have now withdrawn their earlier objections.

Meanwhile, residents, West Suffolk College, King Edward VI School and Abbeycroft Leisure Centre had also raised concerns, including:

  • Additional traffic
  • Traffic impact on college and leisure centre access
  • Impact of loss of playing field on St Edmundsbury Primary School pupils
  • Erosion of outdoor PE facilities for King Edward VI School
  • Protection of green spaces
  • Lack of consultation with King Edward VI School parents

A report to the committee recommends delegated authority be granted to officers to grant planning permission, subject to applicant Wates Construction Limited entering into a section 106 agreement to contribute £10,000 for a new bus shelter in Western Way, £35,000 towards improvements to the Tollgate junction and £200,000 towards improvements to the Western Way/Newmarket Road junction.

Conditions, including resurfacing of the artificial pitch within 12 months, could also be included.

David Gartland, Abbeygate Sixth Form principal, said: “I am delighted to see from the report that the council officer has put forward their recommendation to the planning committee for the approval of the new Abbeygate Sixth Form College building.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a £32 million pound investment to create a purpose-built sixth form college that will provide exceptional A-level provision for our students.”

John Rosenthal was among a group of former King Edward VI School PE teachers who voiced concerns earlier this year over the loss of playing fields.

This week he acknowledged the all-weather pitch would now be improved as part of the scheme, however said the need for space was still an issue.

He said: "I think it is probably a fait accompli and ignores the wider issue about the erosion of space for activities, which limits the scope of teaching and limits the space for children to be active, not just in curriculum time but at lunchtime and after school etc. All this needs to be considered against a backdrop of increasing obesity, which is a national problem, along with diabetes, resulting in enormous cost to the NHS.

"These issues are being ignored, indeed have been ignored from the earliest decision to site the college in Beetons Way and not somewhere more suitable."

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