PLANS to increase the size of Forest and Sandridge School has sparked concern amongst neighbouring residents that ongoing traffic problems will be exacerbated.
The school has submitted a planning application for four additional classrooms, a studio space, additional toilets and breakout rooms, additional outdoor hard surfacing, and a remodelled nursery.
The expansion will support the school to increase its reception intake from 60 to 75 from September 2022. The reception intake increase will result in a “small and gradual” growth of the school in the following years, which currently has approximately 420 pupils.
But the proposal has been criticised by neighbouring residents, who have said that the current road infrastructure, school drop-off area and limited available parking – which they say is already ‘extremely congested’ and ‘dangerous’ – will be unable to cope with the additional traffic.
In response, the school has said that it hopes to work with residents to identify ways to make ‘positive improvements’.
One Cranesbill Road resident said, “There is already a major problem with traffic and parking at school pick up and drop off times. Single yellow lines have been put down to try and mitigate this, but these restrictions are ignored daily, with no enforcement officer to monitor. There is a major safety issue here for the children getting to and from school.”
“I am wondering where the parents of the 100-plus children for whom the new classrooms are being built will be parking their cars when dropping off and picking up at the school,” said a Snarlton Lane resident. “We already have a problem in Snarlton Lane, with parents blocking people’s drives and parking in the turning bay at the bottom of the lane, so it is reasonable to assume that it will only get worse.”
Another local said, “To increase the number of pupils attending the school without making provision for a better drop off and pick up would cause many issues with traffic for the residents of Snarlton Lane and difficulties for those pedestrians using the cut through across the lane.”
At a meeting of Melksham Town Council’s economic, development and planning committee, held on Monday night, councillors echoed the concerns about the effects of increased traffic on neighbouring residents.
Councillors agreed to ask Melksham Wiltshire councillor, Mike Sankey, to speak with Wiltshire Council about taking a further look at the plans in view of the potential highways problems.
The mayor, cllr Jon Hubbard, said he was disappointed that a traffic assessment had not been submitted with the plans. After consideration, councillors unanimously voted against the plans on highways grounds.
If the plans are approved by Wiltshire Council, town councillors asked that a caveat be included, asking for a pedestrian crossing to be built in Snarlton Lane, which links the rear entrance of the school with the estate behind the lane.
On behalf of the school, Scott James, interim principal (as of September 2021), at Forest and Sandridge CE School said, “As many parents and the wider community will already be aware, demand for school places is at an all-time high. At Forest and Sandridge, we are proud of our school and its continuing popularity in the local area.
“Each year, we are unable to offer many families within our community the opportunity to join our Reception class because we are limited to 60 children. Therefore, Wiltshire Council asked us to explore ways in which we could include more children from our community. As a result, we ran a consultation earlier this year with parents, Salisbury Diocesan Board, and the wider community all invited to give their views on a proposed school extension and subsequent increase of Reception intake from 60 to 75 in September 2022.
“We received a small number of responses, the views of which were taken on board and going forward, we look forward to working with the wider community on identifying ways to make positive improvements.
“These plans are now going through the official process as per council planning guidelines. If the application is successful, the proposed plans will include four additional classrooms, one studio space, additional toilets and breakout rooms, additional outdoor hard surfacing, and a remodelled Nursery, all of which will enhance our school and provide a fantastic learning environment for current and new pupils.”
Consultation on the plans runs until Monday 23rd August.
To view the plans and comment, visit the Wiltshire Council planning website and search with the reference PL/2021/06702.