New Peterborough Catholic school unanimously approved

A new Catholic school in Peterborough has been unanimously approved by members of Peterborough City Council’s Planning and Environmental Protection Committee.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 9:59 am

The 630 place St John Henry Newman School should now open in Aqua Drive, Hampton Water, next year.

The maintained voluntary aided school run by the Diocese of East Anglia school will be the first state-funded Catholic school in England for more than 10 years, but its admissions policy has angered local residents who fear their child will miss out on a place.

If the school is oversubscribed then 20 per cent of the pupils will be chosen based on their proximity to it, with 80 per cent selected on religious grounds, although the school has said that any local child wanting a place is expected to get one.

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An artist's impression of St John Henry Newman School
An artist's impression of St John Henry Newman School

There are also plans for a 26 place nursery off Aqua Drive.

The new building will have two teaching wings, as well as a courtyard area for hard outdoor play, soft play areas and playing fields for sports including football, cricket and athletics.

Other facilities include a: nursery playroom, studio, main and small hall, library, sensory room and food, science and design technology room.

The plans are for there to be 76 parking spaces, including six disabled and four electric vehicle charging point bays.

Secure cycle parking with 106 spaces is also due to be provided.

Access to the school will be via a one-way system through the car park where there will be drop-off bays and a drop-off turning area.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council planning officer Louise Simmonds said: “While there have been a number of objections from residents in respect of this application, there are no remaining objections following two rounds of consultation.

“People have had concerns about the merits of putting a faith school of this kind in an area such as Hampton Water where open parkland living was promised.

“However, there is a great need for schools in the area, and the new primary school will have combined nursery facilities and an associated outdoor sports activity area for up to 630 places.

“Residents have also complained about the proximity of the new school to their properties, but we can confirm that this application will offset the nearest residential property from the school by 46m, and there will be a 30m landscaping buffer between the nearest house.

“Other complaints were in respect of vehicle movements along Aqua Drive which at the moment is a single track being developed.

“We all know that school drop-off and pick-up times cause enormous traffic issue potential, so we have deliberately built into the road and car park system a 30 vehicle drop-off and pick-up bay.

“This is far greater than many schools have, some in Peterborough having no drop-off and pick-up facilities at all for parents with children in vehicles.”

Kayleigh Dixon from DPP added: “Some concerns have been raised by Hampton Water residents that large numbers of pupils will attend this faith school from out of the area, thereby causing additional traffic movements and associated travel, drop-off and pick-up problems.

“We anticipate that between 10 to 20 per cent of the pupils at the new school, including the nursery, will come from out of the Hampton Water area, which is a total of 130 pupils maximum.

“However, we have calculated that this will mean approximately four to eight additional vehicle movements each day at the drop-off and pick-up bays which should easily accommodate this.

“Besides, we do not anticipate all vehicles arriving at the same time, but rather a steady flow through the peak hours.

“We have also put in ample accommodation for cycles and scooters, and there will even be e-vehicle charging points provided for staff and parents, but there is no long-term parking available to parents thereby alleviating congestion.

“Contrary to some reports that have been in the media, the school facilities will not be available as a community hub for out-of-hours activities.

“It was never out intention to provide community activity services at the school as this could jeopardise security, and would cause unnecessary traffic issues.”

Committee member Cllr Christian Hogg (Lib Dem, Fletton and Stanground) had some concerns over the anticipated numbers of out-of-area pupils.

Hr asked: “Do you think that your figures of between 10 to 20 per cent of students from beyond Hampton Water are accurate? And do you think that 30 drop-off and pick-up bays are sufficient when parents are required to park, bring their child into the school, see them into class and return to a vehicle – all in three minutes?

“When I dropped my children off at school it took a lot longer than that usually.”

Alex McGarell from DPP replied: “The figures are based on similar faith schools in Peterborough and other areas, and represent numbers seen at other schools. But we believe in this case that the more likely figures is the lower estimate, i.e. 10 per cent so something like 65 pupils.

“I do believe that drop-offs can be achieved in three minutes, yes. Our studies have shown that most parents tend to arrive early to collect their children from school at the end of a school day, so they park up and wait for their children to come out of the school.

“However, once the child is collected, the clearance rate is very quick and the congestion levels on Aqua Drive should be minimal. Again, I have to stress that not all the vehicles will arrive at the same time.”

The new school will be filled on an annual incremental basis, with up to one Reception class of 30 pupils and one mixed class for Years 1 and 2 of 30 pupils in September 2022.

Depending on demand, more classes will open from September 2023 up to the maximum of three classes per year group.

The new school is being 90 per cent funded by the Government.