Duffield school’s bid for extension thrown out by Amber Valley Borough Council

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Ecclesbourne School’s plans to build an extension to its sixth form block have been rejected.

The school, in Wirksworth Road, Duffield, had hoped to build the extension to free up more study, teaching, and cafe space – along with five extra parking spaces.

It stated that existing space was “inadequate and overcrowded” due to rising pupil numbers which are set to increase from 1,420 to 1,625.

However, Amber Valley Borough Council voted last night, (Monday, October 15) to refuse the application, stating that the plan would see an unacceptable reduction in recreational space at the school and did not take into account car ownership levels.

Council officers warned members on the planning board that defending an appeal on highways grounds would be difficult.

After the decision was made to reject the application, one member of the public – among around a dozen in the audience – said “this is just Part One, they’ll (Ecclesbourne School) be back”.

Ecclesbourne’s head teacher James McNamara has been contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of this article’s publication.

Conservative Cllr Steven Evanson, Duffield, said that traffic and highway legislation from 1994 had been relied on to judge the impact of the proposals, and called for the application to be rejected.

He said that since then, traffic has increased by 78 per cent, and sixth form attendance has increased “threefold” without any extra parking spots at the school.

Cllr Evanson also said that the school has parking for 103 cars and four minibuses, with 200 members of staff, making it the “biggest employer in the area”.

He said: “On 1994 traffic levels, the site should have 127 parking spaces, but with increased traffic and car usage, there should now be 226. And the number of sixth form pupils has gone up to around 108.

“There are continued complaints from residents, the area has a big parking problem. But I am saying that it is the school’s problem, not their neighbour’s problem.”

The county council said an objection based on the lack of parking would not carry and that the provision of five extra parking spaces was “a reasonable solution, assisting in resolving a problem that already exists”.

One resident said that more than 70 people who live in the vicinity of the school objected to the plans due to existing parking problems – which they feel will worsen.

Craig Morris, another member of the public, said: “Better use of existing space should be considered first before considering building new space.

“This is over development in an area which should be protected from overbuilding.”

Sport England had objected to the plans due to the loss of space on the playing field and running track, including space where cricket nets are kept – despite the school saying they are disused.

Labour councillor John Walker, was moved to object to the application on this basis.

He said: “Getting rid of five cricket nets – it is sacrilege. This scheme is encouraging kids to come to school in cars and on motorbikes.

“I just cannot believe it, 16 and 17-year-olds arriving in cars. Back in my day we used to walk several miles to school. We have a major parking problem.”

This was supported by vice-chairman of the planning board, Conservative Cllr Ron Ashton.

He said: “Unfortunately nowadays a lot more people are better off and are driving to school.

“In my time, I used to walk to school and on my street there were only five cars, now you can hardly get down it because there is parking on both sides all the way down.

“I don’t think this problem is going to go away but I don’t see a solution to this – short of building on the playing field, which we would obviously not want to do.”

Cabinet member for housing, Conservative Cllr Paul Hillier, said that the lack of parking at the site ought to be forcing more people to use the bus and had called for the application to be approved.

Borough council planning manager, Sarah Brooks, said: “If you look at the site of the development within the size of the site, it is very small, and without a highways objection (from the county council) it would be very hard to sustain this (the borough council’s case for refusal) if this did come back at appeal.”

Despite this, councillors voted to reject the application.