School wins its battle with inspector
Report to secretary about excessive noise levels at site of planned secondary is overruled
A CONTROVERSIAL free school has been allowed to stay in a village despite an inspector advising against it.
The Department for Education applied to South Buckinghamshire District Council for prior approval to convert an existing temporary use of Pioneer House office block, in Stoke Poges, for permanent use by Khalsa Secondary School.
Campaigners raised concerns about potential traffic, noise and contamination issues, which they put to Inspector Ava Woods at a two-day hearing in July.
Mrs Wood heard from both sides before writing a report which was submitted to secretary of state Eric Pickles.
In her report, Mrs Wood dismissed transport concerns, saying the evidence in the most recent traffic surveys suggested there would not be ‘severe conditions’.
But she recommended refusal based on noise levels.
She said: “Analysis of existing and predicted noise levels, alongside residents’ experience of the school, leads me to conclude that their living conditions would be materially harmed as the school develops to its full complement.
“The measures would do
mitigation put forward little to alter that position.”
She concluded: “On the balance of considerations, the appeal should be rejected for the severity of impact on local residents from noise generated by the school.”
However, Mr Pickles overruled the inspector in a decision announced on Thursday last week.
He accepted the scheme ‘is likely to have a negative impact on neighbouring properties’, but said if the offices were fully occupied he could not see how this would not also lead to a change in the noise.
In his letter, Mr Pickles said trustees of the school and the headteacher are ‘genuinely willing to work with the community’ and were happy to introduce measures to help living conditions.
He said it would not be reasonable to ‘prejudge’ the success of the ‘ good intentions’ as a reason for refusal.
Mr Pickles concluded: “Although the increased noise levels experienced by the local residents as a result of the school’s operation need to be given significant weight, they would not be of such severity over and above those generated by any other beneficial use of the site.”
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