West Cumbrian council opposes new houses due to lack of school places
By Federica Bedendo
Plans to build a new housing estate in a West Cumbrian village have been met with opposition after local children were refused school places.
Story Homes has applied to Allerdale council to build 69 homes in the field next to the former Coachman Inn, High Seaton.
But Seaton Parish Council, which was consulted by Allerdale council on the plans, unanimously objected.
It comes after two residents voiced their concerns at a parish council meeting on Tuesday, about children being refused a place in Seaton Junior School.
Caroline Johnson said her seven-year-old grandson, who lives on Whitestiles, will now have to go to Ashfield Junior School.
She said: "They are discriminating against these children. My grandson's parents both work and I have to take him to school, but I don't drive.
"There are children on my road who have moved to the village 12 months ago and their children got a place in the school.
"We've always lived in the village and it's not fair for my grandson not to be able to go to school with his friends."
In Cumbria, more than 97 per cent of the 4,592 children who applied for a place in primary school were offered a place in the school of their choice.
Councillor Joe Sandwith said: "It's ridiculous that they would want to build more houses when there aren't any places in school for the children who already live here."
Coun Daniel Horsley added: "There is no way I'll be supporting this development if we're already dealing with this issue now, before new houses are built."
Councillor Celia Tibble said she had a meeting with Amanda Dickinson, Seaton Junior School's headteacher, and Sue Hayman, Workington MP.
Coun Tibble said: "The problem is the number of places available in the school is 60, and there isn't a classroom which can take more than 30 children.
"Apart from not having the space, the school doesn't have funding for an extra teacher, the headteacher is quite desperate about it.
"We have made representation to the education authority.
"This has been happening all over the country since 1988, when they got rid of catchment areas and introduced parental choice. But it's caught up with us now with all the developments we've had in recent years."
Coun Julie Norman said: "It just doesn't seem fair that there are families who have gone to the school for generations and don't get a place in the school, and someone moves here and their child gets one.
"How are you going to tell a seven-year-old he's not going to school with his friends he went through the infants with?"
Councillors unanimously objected to the plans.
Story Homes announced plans to build on the land at High Seaton in 2015.
Plans to build a mixture of two, three and four-bedroom houses and create 193 parking spaces have now been implemented with a play area and more street lighting.
Adam McNally, planner at Story Homes, said: "There are some minor amends to our application but there are two clear improvements for the community.
"Firstly, we have listened to the feedback provided and we have included an onsite play area as part of the development. Secondly, we are looking to install street lights along the frontage.
"In installing street lights, this will reduce the speed limit to 30mph along the road and address the safety concerns raised by the community and Allerdale council."
He continued: "In terms of the capacity at the junior school, when we submit a planning application the county council carry out an assessment based on the proposed housing mix and if necessary will suggest contributions towards primary and secondary school places.
"On this occasion, we are making a contribution towards provision of school places at Seaton Junior School."
A spokesman for the county council said: "We received 4,592 applications for primary school places this year and the vast majority 97.3 percent of parents have been offered a place at their first preference school.
"Unfortunately, schools are sometimes oversubscribed and in this case the council, or the school, for own admissions authority schools, works out who has highest priority for the places in a fair and consistent way.
"We do this by using the oversubscription criteria contained in either the council’s or the school’s own admissions policy to rank all the applicants in order of priority.
"In cases where parents are not offered a place at their preferred school, they have the right to appeal to an independent admission appeal panel.
"They are also put onto a priority list in the event of places becoming available. This would only normally happen if another family, previously offered a place at this school, did not actually take up that place or if a pupil left the school."