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Elmswell Primary School expansion to receive £1.5 million in developer contributions despite objections

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More than £1 million in housing developer contributions has been assigned to expand Elmswell Primary School to accommodate another 105 pupils, despite objections from some councillors.

Mid Suffolk District Council's cabinet voted by seven to one in favour of allocating the £1.5million of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) - cash provided by housing developers for key public services upgrades - at its meeting on Monday morning.

That will fund three new classrooms, a studio, a new all-weather pitch, remodelled car park area and relocation of the hardstanding PE space, that will mean the school capacity increases from 315 to 420 pupils.

Elmswell Primary School. Picture: Google
Elmswell Primary School. Picture: Google

The decision comes despite opposition from ward councillors, Elmswell Parish Council and the county councillor for the area who have expressed concerns over space on the site and future provision.

Ward councillor Helen Geake said the size of the site is 1.6 hectares - slightly smaller than the minimum space for a 420-place school, but said the substantial green tree belt meant the amount of useable space was actually nearer to 1.2 hectares.

Cllr Geake added that there were two other sites in the village - one of which was land owned by the district council - that could be appropriate.

Cllr Helen Geake who represents Elmswell and Woolpit. Picture: Mark Westley
Cllr Helen Geake who represents Elmswell and Woolpit. Picture: Mark Westley

"The growth is foreseeable but the school will not be able to expand further, and we will need a new school," she said.

"There are two potential sites for a new school in the village, both of which are comfortably large enough.

"This will require more investment in the short term but it will be better value for money in the long term."

Suffolk County Council forecasts suggest the school will be over capacity by 2025, but the authority said sites had not come forward in the village which is why Woolpit is being considered for a new school where sites have been presented.

Pete Mumford, schools planning manager at the county council, said the authority had to address demand levels now, and attempts to build a new school would take at least two years, which he said would leave Elmswell 'oversubscribed by close to 100 pupils at that point'.

He added: "We have an option to expand the existing primary school, so as a place planning authority that has to be the option we have to look at."

It is understood the expansion of Elmswell would not necessarily preclude a new school there in future, but current plans are for a new school in Woolpit. Any attempts to relocate the existing school to a bigger site would require an additional £4-5m, according to Mr Mumford.

Cllr David Burn
Cllr David Burn

David Burn, cabinet member for planning at Mid Suffolk, said: "Given that there is a need, an immediate need, and given this is a means of meeting it I am inclined to support it, but would ask that the [county] council bear in mind that there is considerable opposition to it in Elmswell."

Planning permission for the expansion was granted by Mid Suffolk in September, which is backed by the school itself.

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