Decision on controversial Rokeby Field schools plan deferred

Campaign group SHARE gather outside Warwickshire County Council ahead of the meeting to decide on the Rokeby Field schools proposal. NNL-171107-142906001
Campaign group SHARE gather outside Warwickshire County Council ahead of the meeting to decide on the Rokeby Field schools proposal. NNL-171107-142906001

The decision on the Rokeby Field schools proposal was deferred for a month at a meeting today (Tuesday, July 11) to give objectors time to consider late transport information.

Developers submitted its highways report for plans for a secondary school and a special needs school on the site off Anderson Avenue on Friday due to delays.

Rugby Free Secondary School parents and pupils show support for the Rokeby Field schools plan. Photo courtesy of Donna McCrae NNL-171107-173203001

Rugby Free Secondary School parents and pupils show support for the Rokeby Field schools plan. Photo courtesy of Donna McCrae NNL-171107-173203001

Warwickshire County Council’s regulatory committee decided it would not be fair to decide on the proposals with giving people enough time to consider the report or the data behind it, and deferred the meeting for a month.

Dozen of objectors from campaign group Sustainable Hillside and Rokeby Education (SHARE) gathered at Shire Hall in the hope the controversial plans would be rejected, but there were some in the public gallery in favour.

SHARE chairman Sally Chant supported the councillors’ decision as it would have been unfair otherwise, but believes people want an answer, not more delays.

“The information did come in late and it’s only right people get a chance to look at it so I think it was the right decision,” she said.

“Having said that, everyone wants to know what the outcome is.”

The county council and the Education and Skills Funding Agency want to build a secondary school and a special needs school on the playing fields, with access onto the junction of Anderson Road and Long Furlong.

Councillors spent more than two hours debating and listening to officers, objectors and the developers put their cases forward in a busy committee room.

Planning chief Ian Grace said Rugby is facing a ‘crisis’ in secondary education if no new schools are built, which is why he recommended approving the plan despite the site not being designated for development and the many negatives associated with it.

Objectors argued the need is in the north of the town and the proposal would create ‘potential death traps’ due to the amount of extra traffic from staff, parents, pupils and visitors.

The committee was split on the motion to defer the decision, but chairman Cllr Bill Olner used his casting vote to rubber-stamp the postponement.

It is expected to be heard again on August 8.

A number of parents with children at Rugby Free Secondary School decided to fight for the Rokeby Field proposal in the past few weeks as they felt they were not being represented.

Sarah Morrison, who spoke on behalf of the group, said she was disappointed by the decision as children’s futures are in the balance.

“We’re really disappointed, it means the children are without the security [of more school places] still,” she said.

“I think it’s just not fair on the children to be potentially shipped out of the area. It’s another month before we have an answer.

“There will be a lot of parents who will be disappointed by this.”

Dozens of parents and their children gathered outside the free school this week to show their support for the county council’s plans.

Clare Lucey from Cushman and Wakefield, the planning consultants supporting the ESFA with the application, said: “The team accepts the decision to give committee members further time to consider the highways plans, which have been agreed with the local highways authority.

“We are confident that the solutions proposed will manage the potential impacts in and around the site in an effective and safe manner.

“As always the ESFA will continue to work with the local authority and other stakeholders in seeking to agree a satisfactory outcome and positive determination for this proposal, particularly given the urgent need for school places in the area.”