STEEP Parish Council has accused Bedales School of ignoring community concerns as it seeks to create a 15-year "masterplan" for its estate. The school, which has been an integral part of Steep for more than 100 years, wants to carry out a number of major improvements, including building a new music school building. And it has the backing of East Hampshire District Council officers, who are recommending that members give the plans the go-ahead. But the parish council fears the lack of provision for vehicle access to the school and an influx of new students could lead to further traffic problems in the area. Bedales' main access is off Church Road, the main road serving Steep. Dunhurst and Dunannie, the junior and pre-prep schools, share an access from Alton Road which was constructed at the same time as the A3 by- pass. According to the parish council, the school has played a major part in creating traffic congestion in the area and the current proposals, members say, could exacerbate the problems. In a 12-page objection, which was due to be presented at a meeting of EHDC's south planning committee on Thursday, parish councillors said: "As described at the beginning [of the objection], there has been a history of concerns expressed strongly by the residents of Church Road over a number of years about the volume, speed and behaviour of traffic in the road. "Whilst it is not the only influence on traffic, the major contributor to this problem is Bedales. "The context for this application is, therefore, not one where the current situation is satisfactory." Councillors fear there will be a 15 per cent increase in the number of pupils in the senior school if the plans get the go- ahead. "The current unsatisfactory situation will therefore become worse," the report added. "Using current proportions of day pupils, we may expect ... at least 40 additional traffic movements a day as a result. "In spite of this growth, and ignoring the history of community concerns, the school has decided it will do nothing during the next 10 years in terms of either physical access or operational changes which could help the Church Road problems. "It has arrived at this decision without, in the view of the council, engaging in prior open consultation with the community concerns expressed in a number of ways, including at the most recent exhibition. The objection concluded: "The school should be requested to prepare plans for a new physical access to the site to be implemented within two years and involve the community in a full consultation on the proposals as a prerequisite to any further application approvals." But a report by EHDC planning officers states no extra traffic would be created. "The masterplan proposals are in character with their historical and rural surroundings and will not give rise to a significant increase in traffic in the centre of Steep," it said. A new classroom and teaching building, the first phase of the £7.5 million Orchard development project, was unveiled at the school in August. In the past, the planning officer's report adds, the school came forward with proposed changes on an "as and when basis". But the school's masterplan aims to give an overview of redevelopment over the next 15 years - outline applications would have to be renewed every three years allowing for updates and modifications. l A full report and pictures of the formal opening of the new teaching and administration building will appear next week.
Council accuses school over 'masterplan'
Friday 4th November 2005 12:00 am