The Rushmoor and St Andrews Schools Alliance is celebrating today after being granted planning approval to build on land off Clapham Road and Manton Lane.
However, local residents have reacted with concern about how local roads will cope, as they already experience extreme congestion at peak times.
The 40 acre site will house new school buildings to cater for between 550 and 670 pupils from nursery to 6th Form.
Construction will coincide with work on the Borough Council’s Transporting Bedford 2020 project, including the Northern Gateway Scheme.
Planners at Bedford Borough Council had previously rejected the plans on the basis ‘…that the proposal would significantly reduce the benefits of the Northern Gateway Scheme (NGS) in easing congestion and improving the reliability of journey times across the network, thereby leading to a severe residual impact.’
However, the objection, supported by many local residents, was overthrown by the Planning Inspectorate yesterday (10 April), following an appeal by Rushmoor School.
In upholding the appeal, the Planning Inspectorate said: “The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted for the construction of school buildings; indoor tennis courts and pavilion building; outdoor tennis courts; and rugby pitches at land off Clapham Road and Manton Lane, Bedford.
“This is in accordance with the terms of the application ref 16/00111/MAO, dated 15 January 2016, subject to the conditions set out in the attached schedule.”
In a letter to parents, the principle of Rushmoor School, Ian Daniel, said: “I am delighted to advise you that we have finally received planning approval for our Woodlands Park development.
“After a long drawn out process we are pleased that the planning inspector has made the decision in our favour. In our view the inspector has come down firmly on our side.
“We have been making plans for the next steps of this development project whilst dealing with planning delays, so we already have designs drawn up which can now be finalised.
“We are working towards a construction completion date at the end of the 2021 academic year.”
In response to the appeal being overturned, Cllr Colleen Atkins, councillor for Harpur ward said: “This is an extremely disappointing decision and will upset Manton Heights residents who went to the trouble of objecting and feel they’ve not been listened to.
“Cllr Louise Jackson and I have opposed this plan throughout because of the traffic congestion it will cause.
“The council is spending millions of pounds to reduce the current level of congestion in that area and we will be back to having clogged up roads when the school opens. It’s ludicrous.”