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Clark waves through contested free school projects in Buckinghamshire and Devon

by on February 25, 2016

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has allowed two free school projects, both for academies, against the recommendations of the inspectors who held the recovered inquiries.

Clark has granted prior approval to the Secretary of State for Education to allow the temporary use of Pioneer House in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire as a faith school to become permanent.

This was a redetermination. Clark’s predecessor Sir Eric Pickles had backed the scheme but his decision was overturned after a High Court challenge brought by the parish council and the local planning authority South Buckinghamshire District Council.

The main issue was noise nuisance. Clark’s decision letter concluded that the predicted external levels of noise would be “acceptable with regard to the relevant guidelines”. He said the internal noise levels “would not give rise to significant adverse impacts to health and quality of life”.

The Secretary of State has also granted planning permission and listed building consent to Route 39 Academy Trust and Willmott Dixon for a permanent new school at Steart Farm in Bideford, Devon.

The location is in the North Devon Coast area of outstanding natural beauty. The scheme was opposed by Torridge District Council and recommended for refusal by the inspector who held the inquiry.

Clark acknowledged that the proposals, including a new school building, breached AONB policies but concluded that there were “exceptional circumstances” which justified the project.

He decided that “the disadvantages to the public interest of the proposed development at Steart farm within the AONB are outweighed by the significant benefits of the school at the appeal site”.

Read the decision letter.

Roger Milne

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