Decision day for Rokeby Field schools bid

Protestors at Rokeby Field over the free school plans NNL-170305-104751001
Protestors at Rokeby Field over the free school plans NNL-170305-104751001

The crunch decision on the controversial scheme to place two new free schools on Rokeby Field is set to be made today (Tuesday, July 11).

The bid by the Educational Funding Agency for a permanent school buildings for Rugby Free Secondary School and a home for a special school run by Quest Academy will go to Warwickshire County Council’s regulatory committee for a decision on Tuesday.

The meeting will take place in committee room 2 at Shire Hall in Warwick, starting at 10.30am.

The papers for the meeting were made available on the county council’s website on Monday and show the application is being recommended for approval.

But the detail highlights the wide-ranging issues raised by the application, notably the concern over the unsuitability of the Rokeby estate to cope with the traffic – and the loss of the much-loved and well-used green space.

The report to the meeting extends to 84 pages.

And while it opens with a recommendation the plans should be approved, the councillors on the committee will be left in no doubt that the issue is not clear cut.

Indeed towards the end of the report, the officers set out both what they regard as the major negatives and positives of the application.

It lists the negatives as:

• The proposal is contrary to the provision of the development plan.

• It will encroach into attractive countryside next to Rugby town.

• It will result in the substantial loss of a large area of land which is used as public open space and is valued as such by local residents.

• Noise disturbance and traffic congestion will affect local residents and reduce their amenities and the enjoyment of their properties.

• Properties in close proximity to the development, particularly in Fawsley Leys will suffer a loss of privacy, aspect and amenity from the construction of a large school building to the rear of their houses.

• Local pollution levels will increase.

And it list the positives as:

• The development would result in a substantial increase in school provision in Rugby where there is an acute shortage of school places.

• The spaces potentially provided have a realistic prospect of being rapidly delivered and offer the synergies of a campus combining three types of school.

• The development will enhance education choice allowing parents to choose a new type of secondary school to send their children to.

• Local sports facilities available for public use will be enhanced.

• Approval will help to deliver the government’s education policies.

The report concludes, “that the education need for the development, together with the other benefits listed above, are sufficient to outweigh the provisions of the development plan which would preclude development on this land, even when combined with the other objections to this proposal, as without the rapid provision of a significant number of secondary school places there will be insufficient places available to meet demand within the town of Rugby.”

But it goes on to highlight the dilemma for councillors: “It must be accepted that this is perhaps not the best or most ideal location for this form of development.

“The approaching shortfall in places arises in all parts of Rugby, but there are, as objectors point out, greater concentrations of need in the north.

“However, it is often the case that an ideal site is not available... Education is an essential public service and it is essential that appropriate facilities are provided.

“Regrettably this will, in many cases, have adverse local effects. Those adverse effects must be assessed against the need for the facilities requested and a judgement must be made as to whether or not the need for the development justifies the imposition of these adverse impacts upon local communities affected by the development.”