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Oak school expansion is not enough say town council.
MELKSHAM Town Council is urging that a new secondary school is built to cope with the increasing demand from new housing developments in the area.
The council has spoken out in response to Wiltshire Council’s plans to expand Melksham Oak School, which is the only secondary school in the town, from 1,260 to 1,500 students, aged 11 to 16, by the new school year in 2021. Whilst not objecting to the planning application to construct a new building on disused land on school grounds, the council say that the expansion only deals with current pressures facing the school, not those the school and the town could be facing in the future.
The demand for a new secondary school highlights the growing calls for new facilities in the town in response to the unprecedented building of new houses. 1,400 homes have already been built recently in Melksham with a further 900 on their way.
And as revealed in the last issue of Melksham News, Melksham could be in line for an additional 2,045 homes as part of the new Wiltshire Local Plan, which is expected to be confirmed by Wiltshire Council early next year.
Melksham’s mayor, cllr Jon Hubbard, says that a new secondary school, should be built now in preparation for the new influx of houses. Speaking to Melksham News, cllr Hubbard said, “Expanding Melksham Oak is not a strategic move, it is a knee-jerk reaction – Wiltshire Council have their blinkers on and are blind to the problem that is coming to Melksham.
“The new Wiltshire Local Plan could bring over 2,000 new homes to Melksham – there is no way Melksham Oak could cope with these numbers!
“The proposed expansion of Melksham Oak is only dealing with the pressure we currently have, not what is to come. We need to build a new secondary school now so that we have a suitable infrastructure ready and in place for any new homes coming to the town – we don’t want to be building a school retrospectively.
“Facilities need to in the town from the day new people arrive in town – not having anything in place causes people already living in the town to go without, and this is what causes resentment.
“Melksham is already stretched to its limits – we need a new secondary school now!”
At the town council’s economic development and planning meeting last week, councillors voted unanimously to comment on the Melksham Oak planning application, raising their concerns that a new secondary school is needed in Melksham.
In response to the town council’s concern, cabinet member at Wiltshire Council for spatial planning and development management, Toby Sturgis, told Melksham News, “We are committed to ensuring there is appropriate secondary school provision for young people in the communities in which they live. If approved, the current expansion of Melksham Oak will add 240 new places and will meet the needs of the community for at least the next five to 10 years.
“Current forecasts, including the number of all known housing schemes, show that demand for places at Melksham Oak will peak in the mid-to-late 2020s before falling back a little. We are also seeing reductions in the birth rate across Wiltshire.
“For a new school to be required and financially viable it would need around 900 pupils, which would require at least 4,000 additional houses in the local area.
“There are several options currently being considered for future housing growth in Melksham up until 2036 through the Local Plan Review. The level of housing development ultimately approved through the Local Plan Review process will influence any decisions on future secondary school provision following the proposed expansion of Melksham Oak.”
To view the planning application to expand Melksham Oak School visit www. wiltshire. gov.uk/planning-new and search using reference 19/07534/FUL. The consultation will end on Friday 6th September, and a decision is expected by Wednesday 30th October.