Agenda item

Application No.211772 - Land at Winnersh Farm, Woodward Close, Winnersh

Recommendation: Conditional approval


Proposal: Full application for the construction of a new 150 place Special Educational Needs school with associated access, parking and landscaping.


Applicant: Reds 10 (on behalf of the Department for Education)


The Committee received and reviewed a report about this application, set out in agenda pages 21 to 70.


The Committee were advised that updates contained within the supplementary planning agenda included:


·           Minor amendment to the wording of condition 1;

·           Insertion of a list of drawings to be approved for condition 2;

·           Replacement condition 19;

·           Additional informative relating to fire regulations.


Matthew Garvey, agent, spoke in support of the application. Matthew stated that this application would meet the acute need of special education needs (SEND) provision within the Borough. Currently, many SEND pupils were transported outside of the Borough, and this application would help to meet this demand within the Borough. Matthew added that a full consultation had been undertaken, officer advice had been taken on board, and the DFE who were a funder of the project felt that the site was suitable. Matthew stated that a number of alternative site options had been discounted as they were considered unsuitable, and air quality and noise levels were considered acceptable for such a SEND school environment. Matthew added that key trees would be retained across the site, and acceptable levels of car parking spaces would be provided as part of the application. Matthew concluded by stating that the building would be net carbon neutral, in part due to the inclusion of photovoltaic panels and heat pumps.


Sal Thirlway, on behalf of Wokingham Borough Council (WBC), spoke in support of the application. Sal stated that this application would complement the existing SEND provision in the Borough of Chiltern Way Academy and Addington School. Sal added that this application would assist in providing a broad range of SEND provision within the Borough. Children being transported out of the Borough was not ideal, and allowing children to attend a school within the Borough would allow the children to be better prepared due to less travel time to and from school. Sal concluded by stating that this application would make positive impacts in terms of SEND resourcing strategy.


Paul Fishwick, Ward Member, commented on the application. Paul stated that the nature of this type of school would generate additional motor traffic, especially during the AM peak. This additional traffic would affect the single and only access junction of Woodward Close with the A329, which already queued at that time. Paul was of the opinion that the traffic modelling appeared to miss the western arm of Woodward Close, showing a zero traffic generation. Paul added that the proposed application would make the traffic situation worse than the traffic modelling suggested. Paul stated that the traffic modelling without the proposed application showed that new King Street Lane junction with Hatch Farm Way, Winnersh Relief Road, would be at capacity, and that this application would only add to the projected queues at this junction. Paul added that he was pleased that the mature oak tree T44 was being retained. Paul asked that if the Committee were minded to approve this application, the travel plan be stringently monitored and WBC would work with the applicant to maximise opportunities for means of transport other than a car to be used and from the school.


Chris Easton, Head of Transport, Drainage and Compliance, responded to a number of points raised by public speakers. Chris stated that his understanding was that the table included within the transport analysis showed that traffic generation from the school would have no increase on the ration of flow to capacity on the western arm of Woodward Close. Chris stated that he would be happy for local Members to be party to the final travel plan prior to it being signed off. Chris added that when the application for the North Wokingham Distributor Road and the Winnersh Relief Road were consented, a different type of model was utilised. Chris added that the Winnersh Relief Road scheme had been built to the largest scale that it could have, and positive changes would be seen for example at the Winnersh crossroads once the scheme had settled down and was open.


Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey queried how many school staff usually travelled to school by bus or train, queried why the traffic modelling information was included on the website but not in the agenda, and commented that she was very happy to see the inclusion of sprinklers in this application. Chris Easton stated that the school was not up and running, and based on the travel plan for Addington School data showed that between sixty-five and seventy-five percent of staff drove to school, with a further twenty percent walking to school. The transport assessment and modelling was present on the WBC website and was publically available. Chris stated that this was not a typical school for drop-off and pick-up purposes, with the majority of pupils arriving by taxi, minibus or the school coach. There was a long drop off bay, and the road leading to it off of Woodward Close could allow for temporary stacking if necessary.


Andrew Mickleburgh sought current capacity details relating to the affected junction and what impact this application could have on them, queried whether there were further mitigation measures that could be triggered to reduce congestion, and queried whether officers were confident in the draining system coping with this application. Chris Easton stated that ideally the junction would operate with capacity at 85%. The capacity for this junction, including this application and permitted development applications, showed that it was operating at about 100.6%. Chris stated that when the assessment for the overall scheme was carried out, it showed that the network overall did have some capacity. The application in front of the Committee was not showing to have any significant harm on vehicle flow at the junction. In terms of mitigation measures Chris stated that the Winnersh Relief Road needed to open and settle down, and he did not believe that this application would have any significant impact on the road network in that location. Sophie Morris, case officer, stated that Thames Water needed to be involved and the applicant would need to engage with them separately from the planning process in relation to effluent waste on the site. Sophie added that Thames Water had not raised any objection to this application, and as such officers were fairly confident that this site would not cause any issues relating to drainage.


Stephen Conway requested that it be minuted that the travel plan was to be agreed in consultation with the Local Ward Members.


Pauline Jorgensen stated that in her experience travel plans were not followed by schools, and queried what was in place to protect local residents should the travel plan not be followed. Chris Easton stated that he sympathised with the comment, but added that WBC had a dedicated school travel plan officer and the plan was also secured by condition. Chris stated that the school travel plans were working for non-SEN schools, and this travel plan would be reviewed and monitored regularly. Sal Thirlway stated that WBC had a very good relationship with the Maiden Erlegh trust who would be operating this school, and it was hoped that this relationship would mean that more stringent ‘levers’ need not be applied.


Gary Cowan was of the opinion that this was a wonderful scheme located in the wrong place, with an SEND school being located near to a motorway being particularly worrying. Gary added that if he would be voting on this application, he would either vote against the application or vote to defer to allow issues to be rectified. Gary was of the opinion that the condition relating to trees and hedgerows allowed officers to remove trees after the Committee. Gary stated that the very least that could be done in relation to air quality would be to install air quality measurement infrastructure in place, with Ward Members kept briefed with regards to any concerns. Sophie Morris stated that officers had assessed the air quality on the site and found no detrimental impact in relation to its proximity to the M4, and added that the DFE had deemed the site acceptable and suitable.


Carl Doran queried whether the access had been built to cater for any potential future housing developments, queried whether the swept path analysis took into account any future residential traffic on the junction, queried why the school was constrained when it was surrounded by open space, queried why more electric vehicle car charging bays were not being included, and commented that the air quality assessment was only just above the statutory minimum level which was not ideal considering that this was an application for a SEND school. Chris Easton stated that for swept path analysis, a refuse vehicle was used to replicate a worst case scenario. Highways officers could not consider any potential future applications, however officers were satisfied that a refuse or delivery vehicle could use this road should this application be approved. Connor Corrigan, Service Manager – Planning and Delivery, stated that this application had been put to WBC by the DFE who had deemed it a suitable location. Connor added that any potential future application was not for officers or the Committee to consider now. In relation to electric vehicle charging bays, Chris Easton stated that as long as the application was policy compliant then officers needed to accept that aspect of the application.


Sam Akhtar queried whether 150 places would meet demand, and queried how this figure of school places had been calculated. Sal Thirlway stated that the pupil numbers were appropriate for the size of the school building, and this project formed part of the broader strategy for SEND provision. This application was a joint submission for SEND provision between WBC and Reading Borough Council. A number of additional sites had been explored and discounted both in the Wokingham Borough and Reading Borough, and this site was deemed the only acceptable site.


Stephen Conway queried whether there was scope for air quality measurement equipment to be installed on site. Connor Corrigan stated that WBC could choose to place such equipment on site, but to ask the DFE to do so could be unreasonable.


Stephen Conway proposed an informative, encouraging WBC to use mobile air quality measurement equipment to regularly monitor the air quality on the site. This was seconded by Chris Bowring, carried, and added to the list of informatives.


Pauline Jorgensen queried whether the proposed photovoltaic panels would provide for the school’s energy needs, and asked that electric vehicle charging bays could be used by non-electric vehicles when there was not a demand for charging to avoid vehicles parking on the road. Sophie Morris commented that the school would be designed with a fabric first approach and would include photovoltaic panels and heat pumps. Sophie added that the building would produce net zero carbon.


RESOLVED That application number 211772 to approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 22 to 33, amendments to conditions 1 and 2 and replacement condition 19 as set out in the supplementary planning agenda, and additional informative relating to air quality management equipment as resolved by the Committee.

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