5th Jun, 2020

Solihull Council to decide on school expansion amid residents' 'Carmageddon' campaign

John Carlon 5th Feb, 2020

A PRIMARY school could double in capacity if Solihull council’s planning committee supports plans at a meeting today (February 5).

St. Augustine’s Catholic Primary School in Whitefields Road, near Solihull town centre, is set to expand by 236 places.

Neighbours have opposed St Augustine’s growth – dubbing the school expansion plan ‘Carmageddon.’

A petition with 259 signatures was sent to the council in June as councillors decided to press ahead with expanding St Augustine’s facilities.

In 2010, a review of school provision in Solihull was organised by the Archdiocese of Birmingham, which found only St Augustine’s had space to expand.

Solihull Council said it looked to expand the school to deliver places for a growing Catholic community in Blythe Valley, Tidbury Green and Shirley.

Neighbours cite pollution and traffic dangers in their contention to the proposals.

Peter Cogley, of the Whitefield Action Group, which formed to oppose the school expansion, said: “Why is the council proposing to spend millions of pounds on a school expansion and supporting transport infrastructure, before it has finally established just how many houses they will be building in the next 15 years?

“The [consultation] report states that the views of local residents are secondary to parents who visit the area twice a day, who may or may not be from the borough and certainly have no local ties.

“Anyone who regularly travels along Whitefields Road at school drop off and pick up times will have experienced high levels of congestion, gridlock and difficulty travelling freely along the highway.

“It is already a traffic sensitive street. The additional vehicle traffic generated twice a day by this proposal will exacerbate an already intolerable situation.”

Officers responded: “Local residents have expressed a clear view that they feel very strongly abut the existing problems of car congestion and their deep concerns about how the expansion proposal will seriously exacerbate the situation.

“Traffic and parking has come forward as the most significant concern from this consultation… the independent transport assessment identifies a number of potential mitigation options, including updating and implementing the School Travel Plan, encouraging park and stride initiatives,

investigating the potential to increase parking and an increase in the use of school crossing patrol warden.”

Designs for the new school block supported by the Archdiocese of Birmingham and Solihull Council show six new classrooms and a larger car park for staff.

Planning officers have recommended the expansion plans for approval, in a planning report to councillors they stated: “Catholic primary schools in the south of Solihull are already full and given the amount of new housing development being built out there is a recognised need for additional Catholic primary school places.

“All viable options have been considered to cater for this growing demand, but funding for a new faith school is not likely or feasible and out of all the existing Catholic primary schools, St Augustine’s is the only school that has the required space to allow for its expansion. The principle for this development is therefore established.”

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