Billingshurst school’s £10m revamp approved by councillors

JPCT 030215 S15050704w Billingshurst.  The Weald school's �10m expansion project has been approved by West Sussex County Council planning committee. Peter Woodman and some Year 7 students -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150302-160902001
JPCT 030215 S15050704w Billingshurst. The Weald school's �10m expansion project has been approved by West Sussex County Council planning committee. Peter Woodman and some Year 7 students -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150302-160902001

A £10m building project at The Weald School in Billingshurst has been given the green light by councillors.

The West Sussex County Council planning committee unanimously approved the application on Tuesday (February 3) despite concerns about flooding and road safety.

The plans will enable the school to expand from a nine form entry school with 1,540 pupils to a ten form entry with 1,900 pupils.

They will see the erection of a new three storey teaching block with new classrooms, kitchen, dining hall and changing rooms. Elsewhere on the site there will be a new music block and extension to the drama studio.

The application also includes four temporary classrooms to use while the work takes place.

Although the plans were approved by the committee, members shared residents’ concerns about flooding and whether the roads could cope with the additional traffic produced by a larger school.

Billingshurst Parish Council raised an objection to the plans on those grounds.

Resident David Jones, lives Hurstlands, at the end of the school’s playing field. He told members ‘a small lake’ often formed there.

He said: “Our concern is that the school drainage as it is at the moment is inadequate.

“More buildings will create more run-off, which will lead to increased flooding on the school field.”

Local member Amanda Jupp (Con, Billingshurst) said parking around the school was also an issue, with families including the railway station, a pub and take-aways. There is also an problem with HGVs using nearby roads.

WSCC senior planner Mark Bartlett told members the WSCC highways department, had not objected because officers expected most pupils to bus or walk to school. Southern Water and the Environment Agency had not raised objection to the plan regarding flooding.

Reacting to the decision headteacher Peter Woodman said: “The hard work starts now. That’s just the planning permission. We have got to build it and build it in a manner that allows excellent education to continue around quite extensive building work.”

There have been small improvement projects over the years, including a £600,000 spent on a central toilet block. The B block was built in 1969, but only designed to last 10 years.

Mr Woodman said: “The dining room seats 190. We have about 1,550 students. (The new one) will seat 700 students.

“In 1956 it was a school of 800 pupils and what’s slowly happened is more classes get added, but the infrastructure does not expand.

“There’s not enough electricity to power the school. They didn’t have computers or air conditioning when the school was built. We are trying to rectify under investment of 40 years.

“It’s a long process. We have been making a case for a while and working very constructively with the county council and planning engineers to come up with a design that meets the needs of the staff and students.

“It’s taken 20 or 30 years.”

Work is expected to start in summer 2015.