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Safety concerns over school access road

Construction route could put Newbury College students at risk

Chris Ord

chris.ord@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886639

Safety concerns over school access road

SAFETY concerns have been raised over plans to build a temporary ‘construction road’ on to Sandleford Park, which would see HGVs travel directly past the entrance to Newbury College.

Newbury Town Council’s planning and highways committee was discussing West Berkshire Council’s proposal to build the road as part of the application for a new 210-place primary school at Sandleford Park.

Members of the committee ultimately raised no objection to the plans for the road, although two councillors argued that construction work on the school should not go ahead until a permanent link road from the A339 had been completed.

The meeting last Wednesday heard how the road will extend south from the existing access to Newbury College – meaning construction traffic would access the school site from the north, via Monks Lane.

Once construction of the school was complete, the temporary road would then serve as the main access to the school until a permanent link road from the A339 to the east was built.

However, councillors said they were concerned over safety.

Andrew Steel (Con, St John’s) said: “I would much prefer the link to the A339 built beforehand because you don’t want construction traffic going through the college.”

Mr Steel’s proposal to object to the plans was seconded by councillor Julian Swift-Hook (Lib Dem, Pyle Hill), who said: “I have concerns about this [application] in general, but certainly it shouldn’t go ahead until the road access is in place.”

Despite the concerns, the committee was split, with two councillors voting to object and two voting no objection. Two councillors abstained.

The casting vote fell to committee vice-chairman Jeff Beck, (Con, Clay Hill) who also voted ‘no objection’.

Mr Beck said: “In an ideal world you wouldn’t do it, you would put the other road in first, but for reasons which aren’t quite clear to me at this present time it’s not conceivable to put the link from the A339 in time, so what are you going to do?

“Are you going to hold off on building the school until that road is complete? There’s a desperate need for more school places.”

Funding for the A339 link road has been a sticking point in negotiations between West Berkshire Council and developer Bloor Homes, which has submitted plans for the 2,000-home Sandleford Park development.

Although the council says the new primary school is completely independent of the Sandleford Park scheme, some of the funding for the access road, which would also serve the main development, is expected to be covered by the developer.

However, the two parties have been unable to agree on the funding contribution or the number of access roads required for the Sandleford site.

A decision on the Sandleford Park application has been delayed until November.

The town council’s planning and highways committee had previously considered the application for the school as a whole earlier in the year.

Speaking at the meeting in March, Elizabeth O’Keeffe (Lib Dem, Victoria), said: “As a governor of a primary school, we are very aware of the pressure on school places and we don’t want to be playing catch-up.

“I think we need to keep ahead of the game and have these sort of provisions in place before the buildings and the families arrive.”

If approved, the school would be called Highwood Primary and include parking and soft and hard play areas.

A 26-place nursery is also required as part of the project.

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