Plans for a secondary school at Moreton Hall have been unexpectedly rejected by councillors following concerns about a lack of car drop-off points and its proximity to housing.
In a dramatic turn of events, Suffolk County Council’s development control committee refused the proposals by a vote of seven to five for the new secondary school which would include a shared community sports facility on land next to Lady Miriam Way, in Bury St Edmunds.
Despite the set-back, council bosses say the school, which will be run by the National Education Trust (NET), will still open next year and they will address concerns raised before the plans are reconsidered by councillors.
The school is part of the majority of the town’s move to two tier education and would be built in phases to first accommodate 900 pupils and eventually 1,400 secondary places as well as 200 sixth form students.
Following the committee’s decision, Suffolk County Cllr Trevor Beckwith said: “I’m in favour of the school but you’ve got to get it right and the general feeling was they haven’t got it right.”
Cllr Beckwith, who spoke at the meeting, said the main concerns were a lack of provision to drop off pupils by car and that the school’s main building, which is 147m in length and 8.4m high, will overlook nearby houses.
Echoing these concerns, Tony Peck, co-chairman of the Moreton Hall Residents Association, said: “We’re not against the school. We’re not against encouraging pupils to walk and cycle to school. The difficulty we have is that it’s inevitable that parents will drop their children at the school - particularly as the school grows and takes pupils from further afield.”
He suggested that drop-off points could be created in Lady Miriam Way.
Mr Peck added that the school’s main building could face the Moreton Hall estate’s new relief road rather than the houses.
A report to the development control committee said the county council’s Parking Standards do not provide parent drop-off facilities.
There would be parking provision which would expand with the growth of the development with 194 spaces for the school and sports centre in the first phase and eventually 319 spaces.
In the report, John Pitchford, head of planning, said the development incorporates a community car park facility which, subject to management, could provide dropping off and pick up facilities.
He added that the main building is about 46m from the nearest residential facade, which ‘provides a good separation distance to prevent overlooking’.
Cllr Colin Noble, leader of the county council, said: “We are absolutely committed to the development and opening of a new school for the Moreton Hall area. This new school will open in September 2016.
“We will take the application back to the development control committee in due course and will address the concerns of the Committee members by providing them with relevant information.
“The development control committee is independent of the county council and they have clearly demonstrated their impartiality by raising concerns as part of their meeting today.”